November 7, 2015 I attended the CSNAP Conference hosted at UNC Pembroke with a few other Bonner Leaders. We were expecting to attend the traditional conference with multiple workshops. However, we were surprised to hear we were going to be trained in sustained dialogue. At first it was a bit questionable, but in the end it was a great experience! I learned the differences between having a discussion, debate, and dialogue*. It is interesting to have learned that I have been involved in many dialogues and not knowing I was. I thought I was merely participating in discussions in regard to social justice issues.
I believe this is an important training for leaders to participate in. It allowed me to realize how our social identity can make a huge impact when it comes to dialogues. I was aware of people’s social identities and how to be respectful of our differences and similarities, but this training allowed me to realize that social identities can make large impacts on the person’s decision to participate or not. If someone feels unsafe, they will most likely not participate. Not only that, but some things you may say can come out with good intentions but may offend someone because of their social identity. To me the entire concept made me realize that I need to be more wary of how I say certain ideas and thoughts because I want to make sure everyone I talk to feels safe around me.
In the end, this training was beneficial to me as a leader. I am now much more aware of how I set up the atmosphere for a dialogue. With dialogues we can all participate, and we can create an action plan and proceed to make a significant impact on our community!
*Below is a chart detailing the differences between dialogue, discussion, and debate. There are times & settings when each of these modes of communication is effective and appropriate, and times when they are counterproductive. Source: http://sustaineddialogue.org/wp-content/uploads/Students-Learn-to-Initiate.pdf