In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we thought we would share the piece below from Katie Hyten of NCDD member organization Essential Partners. In it, Katie reflects on the reality and impact of power differences in dialogue, pointing out that even if we don’t acknowledge it, power is there in our conversations. Especially if we’re to effectively bridge divides and cross lines of race, class, gender, and so on, we cannot ignore the fact that power dynamics will need to be managed. We encourage you to read the piece below or find the original here.
How Does Power Affect Our Conversations?
In a recent conversation with activists on a college campus, student leaders informed our practitioners that student protesters showed little interest in dialogue because they assumed that “dialogue” was an attempt to placate them by the administration. The power of the administration carried both weight and assumptions.
In another of our dialogues, a participant assumed he would have to begin speaking with an apology for his privilege before even participating in the conversation. In both of these instances (and in so many more), real and perceived power differences created profound barriers to meaningful conversation. Perhaps nowhere has that felt truer than following the results of the 2016 election.
When we create spaces for groups to communicate across differences, we run head first into questions of power. Indeed, it is impossible to have effective conversations around differences without first having often clumsy conversations about power – conversations where we step on toes and say the wrong thing because we want to do better. And because we know that having diverse, cohesive, engaged members of a community or institution is not only the right thing to do – it also increases innovation, profit, and community safety.
So here’s what we know (more…)