one to one: the terror and redemptive possibility

Posted: February 24, 2017 in Uncategorized

Recently I took a half-day class on how to do a “one-on-one,” which basically means how to sit down and really listen to another person for 45 minutes to an hour, focusing more on knowing than on being known, asking good questions that reach in to understand a person’s passions.  The purpose of such an exercise is community-building.  We learned about it, and then we got to practice it in two mini-sessions, partnering up to do 15-minute rounds.

It was daunting for me to take this on – a mostly-introvert asked to just strike up a conversation with a total stranger!  I’ll happily speak in front of hundreds of people with prepared remarks five times rather than do a one-on-one with someone who’s not yet established as a “safe” person for me.  I’ll joyfully bare my soul in a 2,000 word blog for all of humanity to dig into, but figuring out unscripted conversation?  Eek!  If you want to strike true terror in my heart, ask me to sit down and make small talk with someone I never met.  That sometimes paralyzes me.

What drove me to push past my own resistance and take the class was my dawning realization that something’s got to change.  As a country, our right/left divide has deepened so much that I believe we’re in danger of driving the American experiment right off the cliff – we’re rapidly losing the art of civil discourse.  We have to reach across the aisle, and that’s never going to work if we show up ranting and finger-pointing.

Before we can speak into the life and understanding of someone with whom we disagree, we have to do the work of knowing them.  Real relationship is the path to trust, and let’s face it:  no one’s going to listen to someone they don’t trust.  I believe in activism and protest and all that – I’m doing what I can on that front – but if we don’t come out from behind our signs and speeches and connect personally with folks from the other side, nothing is going to change.  If we’re going to correct course as a country, it’s going to happen probably one-to-one, conversation by conversation.

People willing to listen before they speak.

People showing up to serve before jumping into the realm of ideas.

People giving of their time and resources before calling on others to do the same.

People putting down judgments and presumptions and cliches and deciding that the other is doing what seems right to them, rather than assuming evil intent.

None of it is easy.  I have some very strong, deep, caring, trust-filled relationships with people from “the other side,” and my level of distress about some of the things happening has been so acute I’ve barely been able to begin to address any of it even with these safe-to-me people.  As I’ve been praying it through, some of the shrill terror in me is finally toning down enough that I’ll soon be able to form actual sentences with them on the subject in a reasonably calm manner.  Meanwhile, until I get there, I’ve added a conservative podcast to my wonderful queue of liberal stuff.  It’s an opportunity to listen to the other side in privacy, where I can make faces and gesticulate and utter my incredulity aloud without danger of offending someone that matters to me, but also can try with all my might to really HEAR and UNDERSTAND, not just listen for the purpose of rebuttal.

Knowing one another is key.  Rebuttal is not relationship.  Let’s work on fixing this thing before it’s too late, friends.  Let’s talk.



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