Shaking off assumptions allows us to see truth in its totality and respond from our authentic places.
Dialogue - It's Not Just for Birds
 April 16, 2014

Twitter has always been a mystery to me. While I appreciate that millions of people use it every day, my own tweets have resulted in frustration as I attempted to reduce something rich and meaningful into a soundbyte. Biz Stone, one of the founders of Twitter, said that the definition of the word twitter - a short burst of inconsequential information - was a perfect description for the company he created. Mr. Stone's words re-affirmed my emerging experience with this medium – that it creates a lot of noise but not much substance.
Enter the so-called hashtag activist – a Tweeter who thinks she can engender enduring change in 140 characters. The recent flurry around #cancelcolbert is a prime example. When comedian Stephen Colbert satirized the formation of the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation through creating the fictional "Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever," Suey Park, a self-proclaimed activist, incited a twitter campaign against Mr. Colbert.
Her #cancelcolbert tweets resulted in a brief firestorm, but in follow-up interviews, Ms. Park did not demonstrate the skills and analysis that would have led to a real debate. I contrast her with Brittney Cooper, who in her article (see link below), provided a thoughtful and thorough response to Mr. Colbert's misguided humor.
The whole experience left me craving real conversation.
Last weekend, I experienced the opposite of Twitter in a play called "Winners and Losers." This play is a semi-scripted, ninety minute staged conversation between two people. My family and I watched Marcus Youssef and James Long converse about politics, race, sex, and fatherhood until one rang a bell and they determined who was the winner.
The play became even more interesting when the actors moved their chairs away from the bell and just talked. No winners. No losers. Just discovery.  As their vulnerability increased, I began to squirm in my seat. The nuances of their words and the subtle changes in their body language revealed the intimacy I was feeling in their dialogue, even though I wasn't an active participant.
Grace Lee Boggs, my 98-year old friend and mentor, once told me that conversation allows us to get to the place where we can understand the complexities of our souls.
Engaging in conversation with Grace can be a full-bodied workout. She challenges me to think dialectically - to feel passion for my opinions, but also to remain open to new questions and perspectives that accompany strong convictions. Acknowledging and inviting these contradictions comes through meaningful and sometimes messy dialogue.
After the play, my 15-year old son Santiago said, "let's have an intellectual conversation." So, over the weekend, we engaged in dialogue about politics, race, sex, our family and even the Kardashians.  In this age of snapchat, instagram and twitter, Santiago found this form of communication refreshing.
Birds stay among the treetops and tweet. But enduring change requires that we make the time and space through meaningful dialogue to explore the roots, branches and trunks. For words to matter, we might be wiser to consider the whole tree.


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Kevin, Sandra and Greg will be facilitating a strategic planning retreat for the Center for Diversity & the Environment on April 26-27 in Portland, OR.

Elemental Partners contracted with ZeroDivide to provide Leadership Development and Organizational Design services.

You can read Brittney Cooper's article by clicking this link: 
"Why Stephen Colbert Needs to Make this Right"




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