Dialogue; Replacing Dominion-Over Practices with Mutual Empowerment Practices, Embracing Dialogue Principles:
Dialogue makes a place for multiple voices to have a place in the circle; seeks to identify common ground, and build on it; and also seeks to build bridges across differences in a cooperative mutually empowering way. Here are some concepts that help me understand the importance of mutually empowering communication
• Dialogue vs Debate: Engaging in Dialogue is an inclusive practice. Debate is a competition-based practice: “Dialogue is collaborative: two or more sides work together toward common understanding. Debate is oppositional: two sides oppose each other and attempt to prove each other wrong. In dialogue, finding common ground is the goal. In debate, winning is the goal.” ~Shelley Berman; Copian
• Dominion-Over vs Power-With: Embracing mutual empowerment, an awareness of interbeing, while respecting the sovereignty of others over their own choices, as well as my own self-sovereignty over my choices. Power-with means learning to notice when we slip into “dominion over” practices—trying to change someone else, or decide for them without their consent (debating, arguing), and choosing instead to engage in empowering practices—listening, deferring judgement, practicing discernment.
• Shame-Based Systems vs. Affirmation-Based Systems: In a shame-based, competitive system, I must prove my worth for love and belonging. In an affirmation-based system, I am worthy of love and belonging because I am alive. I always have an opportunity to grow, but that should not determine me worth for love and belonging. Love and belonging are given—for every living being on Earth.
Example: Paper Tigers: The documentary, Paper Tigers is about a high school in a very tough neighborhood in Washington State, who had a serious problem of fights in the school. When the school tried a new approach to discipline: understanding and treatment rather than judgment and suspension, the number of school fights dropped by 75%. They found that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) could be overcome, if even just one person validated and appreciated a student, simply for who they were as a person, and that ” just one caring adult can help break the cycle of adversity in a young person’s life” . The high school went from an extremely low percentage of students continuing to college to a very high percentage of students enrolling in college.
Example: The book, “Love 2.0,” by Barbara Frederickson, offers a theory of Positivity Resonance—a new way of thinking about love. Love is manifested in our lives by creating tiny micro-moments of love and connection, day to day. These can be simple acts, like complimenting someone’s beautiful hat in the checkout line, or offering appreciation, or helping a stranger. Research from the author show that people who make small connections of love and connection throughout their day become happier and healthier.
• Concepts/Practices for Supporting Empowerment of Self and Others: respect for individual sovereignty – respecting the space of the other, respecting our own space, honoring the place where we meet.
Context: In our Sunray Peacekeeper Training, our teacher, Venerable Dhyani Ywahoo (27th Generation Lineage Holder of the Ywahoo Clan of the Tsalagi) teaches us that when discord arises, we should try to respond by bringing the complement to the situation to provide balance. The Prayer of St. Francis, which I often refer to also speaks of bringing the complement. A colleague of mine interpreted the Prayer of St. Francis in this way, “wherever there is fear, go to that very place and bring love.” I include these concept frameworks within the realm of embracing Mutual Empowerment, rather than Dominion Over: