“Political correctness” was meant to reduce hate speech and foster positive change but sometimes now it’s in conflict with free speech. Fear mongers use attacking that as an excuse for rancorous defaming of immigrants and all types of “the other.” It’s their rationale for the vilest expressions of disparaging all but those who used to be in charge in the “good old days” (before racial, national, gender and other forms of diverse inclusion). In a world of changing demographics, we desperately need a more conscious and compassionate understanding of the other.
I agree with the concept of conscious conversation and how its use can create true communication in every sphere of personal, social, political, and global life. But, whether in business, government or civil society, we must examine the language we use internally and sometimes adjust it when we’re talking to people outside our own spheres. We have to speak more simply and directly. We also have to remember that a key part of conversation is listening consciously as well as speaking consciously.
We have to remember that empathy doesn’t mean “I feel just like you do,” it means “I think I can understand how you feel.” We have to invite participation by asking “How can I help?” rather than always take the lead by saying “Here’s how I can help you.” Most important, we must bear in mind that even the most conscious conversation isn’t the goal, it’s the means to an end. And whatever our experience or expertise, we always should be prepared to say: “I never thought of it like that.”
Conscious conversation is not just a synonym for conflict resolution or civil discussion of major issues of the day. It’s also reading to our children and teaching them to love and respect language. It’s answering their questions as straightforwardly as possible, whether they’re toddlers or teens. At work, it means letting your co-workers and your staff feel that you’re a helpful colleague. In activism, it means speaking truth to power with conviction, without having to vilify. It requires hearing what people mean, even when you don’t like some of the words they use. Conscious conversation means we must be prepared to have some difficult conversations: if we don’t try, we will remain divided and entrenched in our respective righteousness.
How do we put conscious conversation into practice? There’s no pat or single answer to that. It depends on who you are, where you are, who else you’re working with, and what you eventually want to accomplish. My advice is to practice being a more conscious person and as well informed as you can be about the issue you’re dealing with. Always be prepared to try. And don’t be deterred if you fail. Consciousness is alertness. What I call connectedness is unity. I believe the combination of the two forms a foundation for creating a happier, healthier world. So, whataya know, whataya say?!
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