The interstate was nasty. A combination of rain, sleet, and snow fell on the windshield making it very difficult to see. As I passed semis, the trucks blanketed my field of vision even more by drenching the glass. In these moments I was completely blind. It took all of my concentration just to hold a steady line on the road. Luckily, I was not alone.
My youngest daughter sat next to me, lightening the mood and keeping me engaged. She and I were having a lovely talk about how the “Gen Z” crowd saw the topic of gender. She explained the nuisances of why so many people her age were repulsed by traditional ideas of male and female, power, and voice. I added to our endeavor by sharing my perspective about the value of working with masculine and feminine energy; regardless of how you identify–male, female, or neither. While the substance of the talk buoyed me, it was not remotely the heart of the matter. We listened to each perspective, built or jousted the ideas, and then allowed one another to continue. We held the tension of our differences while being close to the center of our mutual admiration. Our ability to be in community sang like an aria. We were separate people, with one unified voice.
As the temperature dropped outside, the rain, sleet, snow mixture turned to pure snow. It became much easier to navigate as the white flakes bounced off the windshield and quickly melted on the pre-salted highway. We made it home safely– all the better for taking the journey together.
Relevance: Re-find Community
Holding people’s perspectives with attention, respect, openness, and wonder helps create the foundation of a very different kind of conversation. This type of speaking and listening allows people to build rather than divide; to delve and complexify rather than tear apart and win. It requires a BOTH-AND dance that holds tensions of opposing views. Ultimately it creates something unique and unifying much like a work of art. Some people call this kind of talk a fourth way–distinct from lecture, debate, or even dialogue. As our national and international temperatures rise, many worldviews are being uncovered for all to see. It is easy to fall into destructive ways of listening. To navigate this new terrain, the way we speak with each other as human beings must evolve or we risk all the violence and horror that befall those at war. We must Re-find Community through generative conversation.
Practice: Generative Conversation
Branford Marsalis famously said ‘There’s only freedom in structure, my man. There’s no freedom in freedom.’ To converse in complex times, we are challenged to listen and speak in generative ways. Generative conversations provide an allowance for difference, maintaining structure and personal integrity, and uncovering innovative, unified results. Here some ways to seed generative conversation:
- Intention- the wonder of conversing. In generative conversations, you enter the field by intending to discover something new and fresh. You should be on the edge of your seat expecting wonder.
- Presence– the integrity of listening. Bring your attention completely to the person speaking. As your mind wanders and thinks of what YOU want to say, bring it back to the speaker. Reclaim your intention of wonder through attention.
- Delivery– the power of language. If you are used to rambling or taking up space to make your point, instead chose your words with deliberate care as if you are painting a picture. Hold the tension of speaking and listening firmly in your body like you are dancing with the others in the conversation.
- Awe– the affirmation of creation. When you generate your conversation, you are in the zone of discovery, like an artist, a scientist, or a lover. Affirming and celebrating what you find leaves you wanting more. It is an upward positive spiral which generates, renews, and leaves you in awe of what’s possible when you chose to converse in this way.