• Markus Hunt

Dialogue as a Praxis for Peace

Updated: Jun 20, 2020

Perhaps the first step is to admit that what you believe may be wrong.

“[T]he biggest public health crisis in a century; the worst economic downturn in generations; and the largest civil unrest since the 1960s.” (Reuters, June 4, 2020)

We are sad, angry, and exhausted.

My father, a minister, professor, and civil rights leader deeply believed in the power of dialogue. As a child, I was dumbfounded how even the most heated arguments between my father and eldest brother could end in a hug. I don’t know if they had agreed upon rules for engagement, but I have tried my best to follow Rapoport’s Rules. Anatol Rapoport was a game theorist and recommended the following approach to having contentious conversations:

  • Attempt to re-express the other person’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that the other person says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.”

  • List any points of agreement.

  • Mention anything you have learned from the other person.

  • And only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.

Perhaps the first step is to admit that what you believe may be wrong.

Wanting to heal old wounds (from within and without) doesn’t mean there was never an inciting trauma. It means we think we can be better than our past selves, whether it be a wound that has festered for 400 years or 4 days. But solutions can't be effective, if we're afraid to name the real problems. Stolen land. Stolen bodies. Stolen power. Our country has a lot of work to do.

Markus Hunt is an educator, writer, speaker, and musician living in Aurora, Colorado.

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