Posted in Communication, Conflict, conversation, Dialogue, Political communication

Beginning a Conversation with “Loves and Doubts”

This morning’s New York Times featured a compelling interview between David Bornstein and Parker J. Palmer, author of Healing the heart of democracy: The courage to create a politics worthy of the human spirit (2014).  Bornstein (2014) noted his desire to find ways that we all can relate to each other better. After some discussion of the current state of conflict in our national politics, Bornstein asked Palmer, “How do we talk across lines of difference more successfully?” Palmer’s reply included this excerpt:

We can talk across lines by talking about what we love, because a lot of us love the same things: our kids and grandkids, our country, the natural world, the idea that people should be able to get ahead in life. Then we can talk about our doubts, because we all doubt that what we love is being served well. Beginning a conversation with loves and doubts rather than political ideologies opens a new door to dialogue, driven by story-telling rather than political point scoring.

The interview offers many touching, brilliant, and practical examples of how story-telling was used to encourage dialogue.

What also struck me in this interview was the use of the root metaphor “conversation” when talking about constructing ways for people to talk together across differences. This has been an interest of mine for quite some time. The root metaphor of conversation was one of the key differentiators that I discovered in my research when I compared the practices of transformative mediators with those of mediators who did not engage in transformative practice in order to discover if there was anything truly unique about transformative practice. I discovered that transformative mediators crafted their interactions with “conversation” as a guide, and this root metaphor held together a web of unique discursive moves.

One of my ongoing research interests is how to carry the idea of conversation beyond theory and metaphor and into practical, on-the-ground communication strategies. Now, I am inspired to think about how “loves and doubts” can become part of conversation. I find the focus on putting our “doubts” into conversation to be especially intriguing.  It is a refreshing and constructive counterbalance to certainty and ideology — surefire conversation killers. Off to the bookstore I go!

Bornstein, D. (2014, Sept. 4). Reclaiming “We the People,” one person at a time. The New York Times. Retrieved from

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