Are you Overwhelmed with the Trayvon Discussion? How Can We Do it Differently?

As our daily news highlights the events around the Treyvon Martin case, I can’t help but feel a swell of pain around my heart.  Not just for the tragedy itself but for the way that it lives on in our daily interactions and discussions.  When will we use such events to actually grow in our interactions and our dialogue, instead of continuing a debate of right and wrong which only perpetuates some of the same thinking that likely led to this event?  When will our media and our officials step up as leaders to learn new ways of sharing information and help our people to hear one another?  Almost every segment of our society is steeped with judgment and this blame mentality – who is right, who is wrong, who is the good guy, who is the bad guy – all the while missing the opportunity to really know one another.

I’m not some utopian; I understand the many crises and tragedies in our world.  I’m just waiting for us to wake up and say we want to do things differently.  Wouldn’t healing and harmony be the greatest legacy we could leave to Trayvon?  I’m not talking about some pie-in-the-sky ideology, I’m talking about real, concrete, skills we could all use to learn to heal and connect with one another – black, white, Muslim, Christian, Jew, and so on. 

Instead of just blaming  – let’s begin to listen and learn empathy.  I’m not talking about the kind of empathy and listening you probably already think you have.  Check out Marshall Rosenberg’s Non Violent Communication (NVC) work.  If you are telling yourself, “I’m not violent in my communication,” think again.  This kind of empathy involves listening to another with pure presence, understanding (not agreement), and figuring out the underlying needs of that person.  How many of us can do that when we are charged about something?  If we could learn to hear each other and hold conversations without judgment and with this kind of empathy – we would be on a whole new path for healing the race relation issue that seems to still pervade our country.

So, instead of taking a position, or consoling, or giving advice, or correcting about the facts or all the number of other ways we tend to respond in conflict situations, the next time someone starts the Treyvon discussion, try keeping your full attention on the person and listening without judgment and without an agenda.  Try to really hear that person’s NEEDS behind his/her words and connect with those needs. This does not mean giving your power away.  You do not have to agree with the point of view, but you can learn to care about the underlying needs the person is trying desperately to convey, while keeping away from judgment which only keeps the cycle of violence alive.  If you, yourself, are too triggered to be able to hear another, then get empathy yourself – from another person.  I’m not talking about someone to agree with you (that will likely only increase your trigger), I mean get someone to listen deeply and be present to your needs.  We can do this on an individual basis or even during our panel discussions and town hall meetings.  We must first connect deeply before we can ever begin to find solutions. This is the initial step in healing the hurt and finding solutions that work for all. 

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