Where do we learn how to have a democratic dialog these days? Perhaps Parkersburg?
It’s not really a skill taught in schools, and depending on your political, religious, socio-economic status, or even favorite football team, the chances of you not wholly agreeing with your neighbor, friend, relative or city council member is high. If we can’t take more from a conversation than the fact that we disagree, how do we work together in a polarized world to develop shared solutions for the betterment of our communities?
“Is it worthwhile to try to talk to people who disagree with us?” asked Jean Ambrose, coordinator of the Civic Life Institute, which is presented by the West Virginia Center for Civic Life at WVU Parkersburg. It’s a question she hopes Us & Them host Trey Kay can help answer during next week’s event as he presents his Top Ten conversation skills to help participants facilitate discussions that are divisive.
“I’m not sure anyone knows better than Trey how to have a difficult conversation,” Ambrose said. “He’s a skilled listener and interviewer and he always steps away from tough interviews having learned so much from people. Sometimes he ends up with a new friend. He’s the ideal person to help us learn how to listen and develop skills we need to have a true democratic dialog so we can help our communities thrive.”
Trey plans to share excerpts from interviews, including one where he became so upset he felt like he was having a heart attack.
“Listening to understand isn’t easy, but when you do it well, you help others feel heard, validated and respected and don’t we all need that for greater understanding?” he asked. “There’s something powerful in the gift you give people when you listen empathetically to them and your only job is to truly hear them.”
The Institute kicks off at 10 a.m. Thursday, July 18, and runs through Friday, July 19, at 4 p.m. Registration is open and information is available wvciviclife.org.