(Guest post by Jim Henderson)
Do you want to be a nicer person?
Do you want to learn how to outlisten people?
Do you want to know what it feels like to not enter into an argument?
Would you like more self-control?
Are you worried about how you’re going to relationally navigate Thanksgiving?
Have you lost friends over political arguments?
Is your business suffering productivity because people wont talk to each other?
Are you tired of being right but not being kind?
Have you discovered that people don’t change because of better information?
I do, I have, and I want to. But where do I go to practice getting better, stronger, and more consistent? Where do I go to translate these desires, these good intentions into habits?
My friends and I didn’t want inspiration; we wanted a map, a methodology, and an exercise we could engage in to develop our curiosity quotient.
Reverse engineering from this goal led us to design Three Practice Groups.
The Three Practice Group experience is a tightly structured workout in civility. For about 30 minutes a group of 10-20 people (most of whom hold wildly differing political, religious, and economic views) get in a room together and practice being unusually interested in each other. I know it’s crazy right? But it works.
There are rules for engagement because it helps to have a framework to work within when you are pushing against the normal way of doing and being and because it allows us to break the patterns of poor communication that create anxiety or animosity when talking with ideological opponents.
The Three Practices—I’ll be unusually interested in others, I’ll stay in the room with difference, and I’ll stop comparing my best with your worst—are the foundation. The people who agree to participate come into the experience with the promise and expectation that they get to be heard. We structure the group to make sure that happens. And then, instead of being attacked with counter arguments or assaulted with statistics they answer more questions. The other participants practice being curious rather than critical. They learn how to “find the question” that leads to deeper understanding: Can you help me understand …?, I’d be curious to know …
In the nearly forty groups we’ve hosted, we’ve seen people struggle through their natural inclinations to dismiss people based on their opinions and really open up to dialogue that leads them into relationship. You can learn more here, and contact us here if you want to give it a try.