I tried Elizabeth Lesser’s idea of ‘taking the other to lunch’ and treated to brunch (I assumed the time of the meal was flexible:)) someone I had a heated argument with the prior week. The first few minutes were admittedly painful- it’s difficult to be all chummy with someone you had stubbornly demonised in your head. What helped ease the tension was asking about each other’s families, and finding out how close we both are to our parents.
Lesser’s ground rules were a big help in navigating the more difficult topics, and pretty soon we found ourselves sharing our ‘Origin’ stories- life experiences that shaped the way we think and why we both feel so strongly about the issue at hand. And as in most cases, it became clear that though our perceived solutions differ, we actually value the same principles and outcomes. I didn’t end up converting her to my side, that wasn’t the point anyway. But I‘d like to believe that we both left that coffee shop feeling more understood, and a lot more hopeful.
I think everyone would easily agree that respectful discourse will always be more effective than a raised voice and a condescending tone. But our good intentions are easily overshadowed by our egotistical need to be right, while emotions cripple our ability to empathise in moments when we actually need it the most. I felt that today was a lesson not just on trying harder at practicing compassionate dialogue, but also on putting in the effort to make amends whenever I fall short.