“Think of every conversational partner you’ve had and reflect on the power differentials. Children to parents, boss to worker, enlisted to officer, police to other citizens, loaner to loanee, teacher to student, minister to congregant, doctors to patients.
And, in the minds of some, this ranking exists between men to women, black to white, immigrant to citizen, cisgender to LGBTQ+, the wealthy to the poor,” writes our friend and partner Pedro Silva in A Conversation Among Equals: The Importance of De-ranking Conversations | AllSides.
Pedro tells a story from his military career where a higher-ranking officer belittled and threatened him. This officer, Pedro says, was “enculturated to be a conversational coward, as many of us are, relying on rank to undergird the ‘rightness’ of his position.”
The higher-ranking officer saw any challenge to his perspective and position as threatening. Pedro’s story shows how easily we can degrade and dehumanize each other when we respond from a place of fear.
Pedro urges us to overcome the fear that naturally arises when our perspective or social position is threatened, what he calls developing “conversational courage.”
“A contingent of us is going to have to be willing to cultivate space within ourselves to hold conversations that function at a level that transcends the limits of the typical power dynamics that constrain most conversational systems,” he shares.
For Pedro, that’s where Living Room Conversations can help.
“[Living Room Conversations] model is designed to hold space for people from any walk of life to practice and engage in transformative conversation less constrained by the power dynamics that most of us have been enculturated into.”
“If you find yourself conversing from a place of cowardice, be encouraged that there is an entire network of bridging communities to practice with,” he writes. “Every day, more and more people are taking steps toward being conversationally courageous.”
And with each step we take, we get closer to creating a more just and equal world.