Listening and bridge-building

“Communicating—are we crossing bridges or building walls?” November 12, 2011.

Isaac Newton once stated: “We build too many walls and not enough bridges.” Perhaps the question every community needs to ask is, “Does our community need more walls or more bridges?”

Recently, a friend and colleague, Eric Hellman, and I put on a workshop about how to communicate more effectively—especially on matters of spirit and faith, because these issues touch the central core of our being in so many ways, and often result in wall-building where bridges of understanding would be better.

The first step in communicating, Eric explained, is to “know thyself”—that is, our own values, experience, wisdom, and beliefs. You could think of that as the supporting pillar on your side of the bridge. However, if we stand only on ‘our side,’ with our opinions firmly rooted in the cement of being ‘right,’ how can we truly relate to someone on the ‘other side,’ who sees life from a very different perspective? And who is just as firmly rooted? To relate to them, we must be willing to see things from their side of the bridge as well.

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