Rebecca has recently been involved with a focus group that is looking at how the arts and culture can reduce violent extremism, a project which includes collaborating with some pretty “colorful” characters. For example, in the group is Daryl Davis, an African-American blues singer who has conducted multiple interviews with members of the KKK. Also involved is Arno Michaelis, a former white nationalist skinhead who now travels the world preaching forgiveness.
Although Daryl and Arno came to the group in dramatically different ways, the central theme of their work is storytelling. They both believe that one of the greatest ways to change the hearts and minds of others is to hear their story.
That’s not always that easy, though. So how do we start this process? First, don’t avoid it. This is particularly important right now not only in the US but everywhere around the world when everything seems “so polarized”. It’s alright to be polarized, it means that we care. We don’t want to be afraid of differences, even though they might be pronounced. Second, when you encounter others with whom you have differences, find their story–not their position, their story–and get them to tell it. Third, find values and strengths in their story that resonate for you.
The last step that we recommend, to lessen our own internal resistance and anger and introduce playfulness into the mix, is to imagine that our “opponent” is some kind of creature. Imagine this creature telling its story and visualize that you, as well, are a creature listening to it. What do you see in your mind?
The idea is to unpack limiting narratives that we are telling ourselves about the “others” with whom we disagree by hearing their stories and softening the lens through which we see them. Click on the following links for a list of strengths and one of values to help you identify where they might be coming from. And if you want to learn more about Daryls’ story, click here and Arno’s click here.
Appreciatively, Rebecca and Gioia
Imagine someone with whom you have conflict as an animal or some sort of animated creature. Quickly sketch that creature without worrying too much about whether it looks “realistic”. Write a little story about this creature. Add yourself as a creature to the picture at the end of this exercise. Add to the story with what happens when the two creatures interact. If you want to share either you images, your stories, or the whole shebang, feel free to do so on our Facebook page. We’d love to see them.