#7 Having Hard Conversations

Since arriving here at 10 yesterday morning (I got very lost on the way here), a lot has happened. The past 27 hours have included night frisbee, warming up by a campfire when night frisbee got a little snowy and damp, approximately 100 of those oatmeal-fruit-nut bars, endless refills of tea, hot chocolate, coffee, a short lived jenga game, getting our team’s camera/son, Glenn, and attempting to, in one fell swoop, become a braver, humbler, and more open minded person.

It started with yesterday’s reading on psychological safety. How can we create groups in which everyone feels safe taking risks, owning mistakes, and putting themselves out there? Taking chances has always been something I’ve had trouble with. When I have to choose between voicing an idea that may be wrong and staying quiet when I may be right, I choose to be quiet too often. With the work we hope to accomplish over the next few months (and all of a sudden, spring seems right around the corner) I don’t think that mindset is sustainable. I intend to move forward from here ready to grow, even if that means making mistakes, and to treat those mistakes like new opportunities, not embarrassments.

The second big learning challenge was today’s TED talk on moral humility. I have a lot of strong opinions, as I’m sure everyone does, especially within the WTS community. We are here because we care about things. I firmly believe that that passion is good, that it drives us toward accomplishment. Passion without self-restraint, however, is like driving in the dark without headlights. It limits your worldview, and sooner or later you are going to collide with someone else, violently and senselessly.

It’s hard to put aside your convictions. It’s hard to talk civilly with someone whose views you find repugnant. The ideas that the TED talk brought up are scary. Empathy is simple in theory, but difficult in practice. Like communism, but let’s not go there again. Our society divides itself up so neatly. There is us and there is them. The people who are right and the people who are wrong. It’s tempting to just stick with your own team and ignore the rest, but that’s not going to solve anything. Societal divides will just keep widening, unless we can sit down as the same table, person to person, and find that elusive middle ground. I don’t know exactly how to accomplish this yet. It’s going to be a challenge. Hopefully, with a little faith in humanity, some patience, and a lot of empathy, we can get somewhere.

Looking forward:

The confederate flag is a divisive symbol in an already divisive society. If we make it through the next few months without anyone getting angry, I will be very surprised. Our goal is to get it banned in school, and beyond that, get people to want it banned. A policy from the administration would be a fantastic accomplishment, but its influence will be limited unless we can convince people why it is necessary. That means understanding why people support flying the confederate flag. It means treating people with views we may find morally wrong like people, worthy of the same respect we give to those we agree with. It’s hard, but it’s the only way to accomplish our goal.


Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash

Lucy Groves

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