We build open communication by emphasizing curiosity, modeling humility, and paying attention to the assumptions we don't realize we make. These factors all help break down barriers to communications across divides. Here are two examples that illustrate how we think about these challenges.
Beliefs and Facts
The assumptions we make — sometimes referred to as unconscious bias — are often discussed in the context of race, ethnicity, gender, etc. However, implicit assumptions are also present in how we understand the world. We form judgements based on beliefs that are impossible to prove or disprove. For instance, consider a question like:
What percent of non-Hispanic white adults in the U.S. are racist?
This question doesn't have a clear answer. This is due in no small part to the fact that there is no consensus about what the term racist means. Nonetheless, our beliefs with respect to the answer to this question shape our interactions in ways we don't often realize. The same can be said of a question like:
What percent of men would commit sexual assault if they knew for certain they'd get away with it?
Again, this question is impossible to answer. But how we think about it both shapes and reflects our intuitions anyway. Our approach is to think collectively and out loud through the implications of not knowing what the answers are and, more specifically, how that influences communication.
The Role of Identity
Who's allowed to weigh in on which topics? Do we only weigh in on issues that touch our identity groups? Should there be a difference between investigative and moral/political questions?
For instance, let's imagine I want to know what it's like to win a gold medal. In this case, it seems clear that I should talk to people who have actually won gold medals. But what if, instead, I'm trying to decide whether performance-enhancing drugs should be made legal? Do only athletes get to weigh in? Most people would argue that's too restrictive. While I might still weight the opinions of professional athletes differently than I would that of the armchair observer, most people would agree that a wider range of people should weigh in and do so without penalty.
Part of opening up communication is talking through some of these difficult topics.
Our approach involves talking through these and other challenges in a way that helps groups find common ground and build a climate where communication can really be open.
60 minute seminar
90 minute discussion