Learn How to Contribute More Effectively and Compassionately to
the Conversations that Shape Your Life
"Anything could happen when we start to talk. Nothing will happen if we don't. That alone makes the way of dialogue a journey worth taking."
—from the Epilogue
Think of an issue that makes your blood boil. Now imagine lunch with a friend who is just as passionate about it—on the other side. How can the two of you even broach the issue, let alone hear each other with curiosity and compassion?
The answer begins long before the lunch does, by learning to engage dialogue as a habit of the heart—an inner transformation that the ancient practices of Christian spirituality can address. This highly readable and timely guide to restoring dialogue shows you how to cultivate this transformation while preparing you to approach your adversaries with curiosity, civility and compassion. With dialogue expert John Backman leading the way, you will:
Examine the obstacles that keep you from dialogue: black-and-white thinking, a “distraction lifestyle,” the fear of change and negative impressions from others.Explore the strength of character from which healthy dialogue springs—and the work of the soul that cultivates them.Learn practical guidelines for dialogue and how they work in an imperfect world.Encounter anecdotes of dialogue in action, from resolutions of interpersonal conflict to difficult dialogues on some of the most divisive issues of our age.Use provocative questions at the end of each chapter to stimulate group discussion and individual reflection.
If you can imagine, rather than a finger-pointing presidential debate, two candidates listening respectfully to each other and trying with sincerity to mirror back an understanding of the other's point of view, you have arrived at the heart of Backman's idea of dialogue. The author, a member of the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation and an associate in the Order of the Holy Cross, a community of Benedictine Episcopal monasteries, urges us to step away from our attempts to persuade --or demean -- others and instead build relationships based on respect for the humanity of the people we disagree with. Doing this involves grounding ourselves in ancient Christian spiritual practices through which we can internalize humility and empathy. Backman discusses confronting disagreements and offers concrete suggestions for pursuing dialogue in contentious settings. The book is a useful antidote to a polarized society and would work admirably for a reading group, as the questions at the end of each chapter are intelligent, thought-provoking and open-ended.