Through hearing the stories of others, we allow ourselves to question the stories we tell ourselves.
By listening to how others experience the world, we give space to perspectives other than our own.
When we set down ego and assumptions and defensiveness, we create opportunity for empathy and new understanding.
To be able to accept that just because we don’t understand something doesn’t make it wrong. Or simply because something isn’t part of our experience doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
And that just because we believe something, that doesn’t make it right.
When conversations are real, they get messy. Uncomfortable. Some truths can be hard to hear. That doesn’t mean they should be silenced.
They cannot be rushed. Or distilled into soundbites and Instagram posts. They are ongoing and evolving, without a push to reach a false resolution in order to alleviate discomfort.
The best conversations are multilayered, comprised of tapestries of voices that are adding to and shaping the discussion. And perhaps even more importantly, the best conversations have an abundance of silence, recognizing that sometimes giving someone the space to speak says quite a lot.
Conversations can’t happen from a place of “us” vs. “them,” because then it becomes about proving one side right and by default, the other, wrong. Instead, conversations happen when different voices come together in the spirit of us vs. ignorance, us vs. harmful beliefs and practices, us vs. hatred.
Sometimes conversations can get emotional when they begin to threaten those foundational beliefs of self or safety. And as a society, we struggle with those feelings of vulnerability. And so often, we respond with anger or aggression or distraction. Because those things feel more comfortable than being laid bare.
Even as we’re wearing masks in public, many of our hypothetical masks have been stripped away. On Zoom, we’re seeing how people really live. Without access to as many services, we’re seeing how people really look.
Without the usual confidence it what is coming next, we’re seeing how people handle fear. Without the usual distractions to occupy us, we’re seeing what really is. We’re vulnerable. And that makes us uncomfortable.
Conversations aren’t enough. Words alone do not make outward change. But change starts from within. With listening. With confronting the stories that we’ve grown to believe. And with being brave enough to write new ones.