If you follow any political blogs, you have experienced how vicious people can be to those who hold different perspectives. It doesn't have to be that way!
A more productive path starts with the bravery of people moving into online spaces where people with different perspectives hang out. Our Chamber Executive Director (I'll call her Chamber Chief in this post) was brave enough to join a Sustainable Economy blog. However, when someone posted an article about Al Gore, she asked (snippily) whether Gore had an energy efficient home (She knew he didn't). A Sustainable Warrior responded by saying she was scapegoating, and back and forth it went.
But one of the facilitators of the list was fortunately a skilled Network Weaver. I'm going to quote generously from her intervention posts (using the pseudonyms). Wow! We all need to learn to be this skilled.
"Hi Folks! Thanks for all the great input. Chamber Chief...I too ask that you stay involved in this exchange. Let's see if we can ride this wave and not sweep anything under the rug. Sustainable Warrior, thanks for adding something to the conversation even though it triggered some uncomfortable feelings. I hope you will follow up on your comment but I do hope that we can raise the bar toward more collective caring and effort.
"I'm not convinced that we need to classify what just emerged as a conflict however. It certainly carries with it the potential for conflict but I'm hoping we can use this as an opportunity to defuse it, practice some communication skills, and move on toward our similar goals. It appears to me that the exchange might have more to do with the level of frustration many of us feel and the subsequent miscommunication, (i.e. assumptions, hurtful displaced comments) that often emerges with it. We, as a society, aren't very good at communication and conflict resolution and some feel it lies at the root of our current problems on the planet. Let's see if we can use this opportunity; after all it is a microcosm for our larger social challenges. If we can't learn the skills needed to care and communicate with each other here in a healthy fashion, how do we think we can create a more compassionate and peaceful planetary society?
"Do we agree that everyone's input is valuable, that we need to welcome diverse perspectives and views, that we want to create a caring and peaceful world, and that we need to learn to work together as a team if we are going to address our challenges and manifest the kind of life we want for ourselves and future generations?"
She followed this gentle talk by taking the most inflammatory statements and offering suggestions for how they could have be stated to still articulate a viewpoint but in less accusatory language. She listed simple rules the original group had agreed on:
"Listen to others respectfully, Build on other’s ideas, Leave space for all, Speak briefly and to the point, Be open to the guidance of the facilitator, Avoid critiquing, Agree to disagree, No hand guns. (hehehe)"
The response from both parties was amazing. The Chamber Chief commented:
"Wow. This is very well done and inspirational. I have a lot to learn about effective communications. I violated a lot of the agreements that you listed with my question and then again with my response. I would much rather work with Sustainable Warrior on a business idea than escalating frustrations that lead us no where. I REALLY want to be able to hold conversation and think the principles that you describe can be helpful in that manner. Please be patient with me as I learn these techniques."