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Let Us Change the Eyes Which See Reality

eyes

In a recent visit to Indiana, the current President of the United States was asked about civility in politics. President Obama responded,

If you want more civility, then you vote for folks who are civil and who are making arguments and using logic and presenting evidence, not just somebody who is popping off.

Logic and evidence are good, however, the workplace is unique. For most of us it is not about making speeches and rhetoric. For the everyday person, the workplace is personal.  It is where we spend most of our day.  If we want it to not be toxic like our political space we need to speak up and listen in the midst of conflict in order to get work done.

Poise is the mindset we take when problems arise. One mindset that is helpful is to decide to get good at conversation. Conversation is a give and take exchange the can open our eyes to another person’s perspective. The quote below, reminds us that our only power to change things for the better comes from our own perspective. If  we don’t like the reality we see, we can change our perspective.

Since we cannot change reality,
let us change the eyes which see reality.

-Nikos Kazantzakis

In the post titled Compassion: An Antidote to Incivility, we wrote about the concept of fight or flight. Poise comes from an awareness that we are standing on fragile ground when there is conflict. Without thinking we will retreat or react because of our brain’s ability to protect us.

Here is a workplace example of a conversation that maintains poise and supports a co-worker, first to be seen, and then to see others people with new eyes.

Person A:  People from (another department) are lazy and rude. We always have to redo the work that they should be doing.

Person B: Are you frustrated about something in particular?

Person A:  Yes, when a customer calls they complain about (another department). If they took the time to do it right in the first place, we wouldn’t have the call.

Person B: I can see why you are frustrated. What have you tried to do to make it better?

Person A:  I complained to the manager but ____ is a lazy @#%& too!

Person B:  Bummer. I wonder if there is another reason the time isn’t being spent on the customer in the first place? 

Person A:  Yeah, maybe there is some rule about limiting the time with each customer.

Person B:  Perhaps. Do you ever see anyone from ___ on break? Maybe you could ask them what it is like?

Person A:  Yes, but I don’t see what good that will do?

Person B:  I don’t know either but it would be interesting to know what you find out. Let me know after you talk. 

Read the conversation again and notice two approaches:

Curiosity: Person B used mostly questions to approach the person speaking.

Intention: Person B had the intention to first affirm the speaker and then to use questions to broaden the perspective of the other person.

If Person A was speaking from a mindset of “fight,” the approach would be to either prove the speaker wrong or to tell them the right way to do it.

If Person A was coming from a place of “flight,” they would excuse themselves.

In times of emergency, telling a person how to do something is the best approach. Or if there is simply not time to engage in a conversation, excusing oneself works well. When there is time, engaging in a strong powerful conversation is better than just letting the conversation become a complaint or gossip session. Soon we will be sharing more about the research that tells us that complaining and gossip lead to a lot of negative results.

Do you agree? Do you think taking time to engage in conversation to better understand the perspective of others can make a difference? If so, let us know.

Graphic of CultivateSeeds of Civility is a blog that is created by The Wallace Centers of Iowa.  We cultivate conversations about leading (and developing emerging leaders) with civility.

Seeds of Dialogue: Four Civility Practices

Photo of Water Dialogue Dinner

Water is a subject that is on people’s minds. The Wallace Centers of Iowa and four promotion partners are encouraging people to talk to each other at Conversations about the Future of Iowa’s Water.

At the dinners, dialogue is structured with questions that naturally bring about four civility practices. These practices are taught in The Wallace Centers of Iowa programs for the workplace.

Speaking Up-

In order to understand issues better, it makes sense to explore what feels troublesome about an issue. Eventually a person will need to speak up in order for things to change.

When it comes to the future of Iowa’s water, what are your concerns?

Listening Well –

When a person speaks, they have a right to respect and to be heard. Listening well involves asking questions to understand and truly acknowledge what others are saying.

Thinking about the future of Iowa’s water, have you listened to the concerns of other Iowan’s?

Seeing Possibilities –

No matter what issues come up, there are always positive examples of people taking action. Being able to see those examples and build on them creates a more civil society.

What positive actions have you seen that address the future of Iowa’s water?

Responsibility –

Each person must assume some level of responsibility in order for any kind of civil action to occur on a larger scale. In the case of the future of Iowa’s water there are two questions to consider about responsibility.

What role do elected officials have to play?

What personal actions have you taken or plan to take to improve the future of Iowa’s water?

Discussing questions in a small setting, after getting to know new people over dinner, is a simple but profound experience.

Promotional Partners include:

Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance

Iowa Environmental Council

Iowa Association of Water Agencies

Iowa Farmer’s Union

Seeds of Civility is a blog that cultivates conversations about civility and leadership in the workplace and in the community.  Keep the conversations going!

Graphic of Cultivate

Three Lessons from Two Activists on Civil Dialogue

Previous Seeds of Civility posts have discussed the difficulty of staying open when our deeply held beliefs are questioned. Based on our brain design, we want to leave or engage in defensive behavior.  These two options are not helpful when we live in a diverse world. Practically, we need to know how to work and live in communities with others who have opposing points of view.

Real world examples are the best way to learn. On Dec 31, 2014 The Des Moines Register published an insightful story on about two political activists, Donna Red Wing of One Iowa, and Bob Vander Plaats from The Family Leader. Red Wing and Vander Plaats have strongly opposing views about marriage.

According to the author, Rehka Basu, the point of the article Activists Vander Plaats, Red Wing find Common Ground, is to encourage readers “to reach out to someone with whom we disagree and find the common ground.”  Basu writes:

Red Wing and Vander Plaats have been meeting every few months for over a year now, for an hour at a time, with no agenda or talking points. They talk about their families, religion, politics. They share an outrage over human trafficking and payday lending. He appreciates her love of children and says she appreciates his service to special ­needs people.

Three Lessons in Civil Dialogue

Graphic of Three lessons in civil dialogueThere are lessons to be learned from the two advocates as they stayed true to their beliefs yet sought out conversation and dialogue. These are not rules, they are simply lessons learned from the powerful example of Red Wing and Vander Plaats’ story.

  1. Goal – If you decide to spend time listening to another side of an issue, have a goal in mind that is greater than trying to change the person’s mind.
  2. Listen – Treat the other person with same respect you would like when it is your turn to speak.
  3. Rhetoric – Consider the possibility of tempering hard line rhetoric.  Ask yourself, “Can I say the same thing and speak with sincerity in a way that does not cause unnecessary pain?”

Think about it:  Would you consider engaging in this kind of dialogue?

Share your thoughts below or at @seedsofcivility.

Cultivate 510 px squareSeeds of Civility is a blog that is created by The Wallace Centers of Iowa.  Here we cultivate conversations about civility in the workplace.

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