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Civil Discourse Around the Thanksgiving Table

Posted on Tuesday, November 20, 2018 by Becca Thomas

At a recent Wexner Summit that included Wexner Israel Fellows and Senior Leaders, Graduate Fellowship Alumni and Heritage Program Alumni, this dynamic group came together for the final Summit in a series about Civil Discourse. Having started the conversation early in 2017, this group has engaged in deep dialogue, learning, problem-solving and collaborative work targeted at enhancing the understanding of those engaged in conversation.

Among the many lessons and takeaways gleaned from this Summit was a powerful exercise called “Interviewing for Trust and Understanding,” which was created and facilitated by John Sarrouf from Essential Partners, an expert in dialogue techniques who was faculty at the Summit.  

At Thanksgiving you may find yourself in a potentially tough conversation with a friend or family member, and we are pleased to offer the Interviewing for Trust and Understanding worksheet as a resource for all of you. Several Summit participants contributed feedback on this exercise and how it can help you around the Thanksgiving table or in any conversation that may grow tense or challenging.

I think the exercise is a useful one to prepare for the possibility of a difficult conversation. In some ways I think it is a good diagnostic tool if you find a trusted person to listen to you to work out your thoughts through these questions before a potential encounter and help you assess whether to engage, how to engage and how to affect conditions that would allow you to have a productive conversation. I think it is a good clarifying exercise and one that might prevent a person from being triggered in the moment by a particular issue or person and rather come in breathing calmly and ready to be thoughtful.

 

Allison Cook
Wexner Graduate Alum, Class 14

It can be easier to have a difficult conversation with a stranger, because there is less at stake; there is no danger in losing a relationship that doesn’t even exist. The thought of hearing family or friends say things that cause us pain or undermine our safety/sense of self cane be scary. The interview questions were helpful guides, but because I know the person I interviewed, it felt more natural to let the questions flow rather than following the question protocol.

Miriam Heller Stern
Wexner Graduate Alum, Class 13

This exercise taught me that there is always a way to get on the balcony during my conversations, and that I can control only my side of any conversation. I've used it for myself and for others: I have implemented the exercise - with John's permission - with two of my Vistage groups.

Artie Isaac
Wexner Heritage Alum, Columbus 00

The main issue is that we usually have to see these people again! One take away I have is that silence is not a response or an answer nor is avoidance. So good listening and measured response and then better listening will be my approach at my table.

Caryn Rosen Adelman
Wexner Heritage Alum, Chicago 2

Wishing you a Thanksgiving filled with love, learning and understanding!