In his incisive piece "Recovering the (Lost) Art of Civility" from the October 29th New York Times, David Bornstein, co-founder of the Solutions Journalism Network, interviews David Fairman, the managing director of the Consensus Building Institute and associate director of the M.I.T.-Harvard Public Disputes Program.
The two explore the roots of our current crisis of democracy, and possible solutions that will contribute to bringing us back together.
The question, according to Fairman, needs to shift from whose fault it is to what is the other side is feeling and saying. "Moving from 'I know everything about them — they’re jerks' to 'I wonder what they’re saying about this' is huge," Fairman states. "If the audiences for Fox News and The New York Times took a few minutes each day to look at the other source with real curiosity, I think it would help."
Yet many believe, or are pressured into believing, that dialogue with the other side is capitulation and surrender. Progress will only be made, Fairman concludes, when people on each side muster the courage to get beyond their own agenda and truly commit to listening to those with whom they disagree. It is not as much about changing minds as it is about proving our willingness to listen and to collaborate to find mutual solutions.
Conflict mediators like Fairman and his colleagues at the Consensus Building Institute have been working through intractable struggles for decades in a variety of international venues. The tactics they have employed elsewhere have borne fruit in a host of diverse conflicts, and there is no reason to believe that they cannot be successful here as well.
At the end of the interview, there is an excellent list of organizations that are working to bridge the divide in America.
Read the interview here, or by clicking on the image above.