Why should we hold a discussion on a sensitive issue?

(Edited later on, sorry.)

To learn.

  • To learn about wording our ideas, feelings, experience and knowledge in ways which allow a dialogue to take place, in ways which make it possible for a group of people to share their views and learn from other people’s views.
  • To construct knowledge together.

To free ourselves from the war mandate that says that it is impossible for intelligent beings to hold rational-empathetic discussions on sensitive issues.

Why is holding discussions on sensitive issues supposed to be impossible?

Because instead of focusing on the ideas and experiences we wish to share, hurting (or prevailing) becomes the main thing. We feel hurt, we feel attacked, and we react hurting and attacking. We feel we’re not listened to. We feel we’re judged and sentenced, so we sentence, too. We feel offended. We fill our minds with outrage.

When adults don’t have the same idea, or very similar ideas, about a topic, we feel threatened personally, as if our whole identity were wrong. We cannot focus on what we hear, because we just interpret the message as a personal attack. This is irrational, and not helpful for developing our human minds in constructive ways. It prevents the development of our intelligence, too.

We should make the effort of learning to word things in ways which allow us to communicate, and refuse to accept that we cannot develop our problem-solving skill. Because the fact is that we are more intelligent than we think, and that our true source of happiness is people — when we are able to enjoy interesting, inspiring, nonviolent, caring, loving relationships.

  • In Y5A the other day we managed to speak about religion without hurting or offending anybody. It was just a little discussion, though.
  • In Y5CAL today we talked about how important it is for us to develop our skills to find a group that is non-threatening, non-competitive (at least in the wrong way), supportive, caring. Even if one is shy, it is much easier to control one’s shyness when the group dynamics is good.
  • In Y5B, a group with an amazingly interactive group dynamics, today we tackled one of the most sensitivie issues in Spain, which always gets people fighting and results in hurting. Well, we managed not to start off the spiral of fighting, around this issue: languages in the country. And I would like to tell students here that I am convinced they would be able to hold a true discussion on this topic. A discussion where instead of getting upset and hurting, we would end up learning. Please, read the comment to this post, because I will be including (later on) some of the points and questions that were raised.

The exercise to manage a discussion on a sensitive issue is the following: word your points in full sentences, trying to express what you want to say, and avoiding the leap to judging people. Write them down, as statements. Practice saying them. Listen to yourself. Word your ideas and feelings, one after the other, in full sentences which you would be able to listen to if you had a very different, even opposing view. Talk to people holding different views as you would like to be talked to.

Be true to yourself. Make sure you express what you wish to express. Forget about what other people might think of you. But also trust the listeners and keep them in mind, so as to avoid wording things in ways that will change the focus of our conversation. And also be open to learning from reactions, and other views. Perhaps you can improve your views, or your wording. Perhaps you will not change your ideas, why should you, but you might learn something that helps you improve them, or their wording.

We need to learn to communicate in nonviolent ways. In discussions, we should listen to learn, not to prevail or be acknowledged as wonderful people. Oftentimes our identity concerns drag us to fighting, and we should avoid this. Life should be about learning and making our lives the best kind of lives we can manage! individually and jointly!

Pitching in: my resources for this!

As a pacifist, I’ve reflected upon nonviolent communication, and developed workshops on that. Here are some fast and old (should I update them?) notes I wrote to help students improve their ability to hold rational discussions. Discussions

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3 Responses to Why should we hold a discussion on a sensitive issue?

  1. MF says:

    For all in Quinto B:

    Can you list your ideas and feeling about the language questions in Spain? Please, feel free to express your views.

    What do you know about languages in Spain during the dictatorship?
    Can we share stories?

    Can you imagine what it is to be banned from speaking your mother language? (Just imagine this?) Do you know of any examples?

    What do you know about languages in Spain in our present democracy?

    For Non-Catalans: What’s your point questioning language policies in Catalonia?
    Why does this affect you? In what ways? Why do you think non-Catalans feel so outraged/upset about this question?

    For Basque people or people in touch with the Basque country: Can you share your personal views on what the language situation is in Euskadi, and how you feel about it? How do you feel about speaking or not speaking the language spoken in your homeland? How do you feel about Spanish nationalism? Are there people in Euskadi who feel just Spanish, just Basque, Basque and Spanish, or none of these?

  2. MF says:

    GENERAL DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

    What is nationalism?
    What kinds of nationalism are there in Spain?
    Nationalism vs. Collective identities.
    Is nationalism the only way to express collective identity?
    When can we say that a collective identity is being imposed on people who do not share it?

  3. Pingback: Y5B: preparing a Discussion on a Sensitive Issue for next January! | Plans & What We Did In Class

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