Heart & Mind Conversations

ASATT March 24_2016.jpg

Heart and Mind Conversations

In order to break down barriers and understand our multi-faith neighbors, we help you arrange Heart and Mind Conversations. These draw on the ancient Christian practice of hospitality, as well as the insights gleaned from conflict management, group conflict, and marital therapy, as they bring together Evangelicals and adherents of other religions. Through a shared meal and conversations you will break down barriers and begin forming important relationships. Contact us for assistance in arranging these conversational gatherings in your neighborhood, and for Skills Training and Facilitator Training if you want to go deeper.

Preparing for a Heart & Mind Conversation

  1. Contact someone with the intention of getting to know more about his or her religion or worldview, and set a time to meet and eat together if possible. 

  2. During the first meeting, eat together and share personal stories about your background, family, work, talents, interests and life goals. Do not attempt to address religious or philosophical differences.

  3. Share your motives and purposes for a deeper conversation, and agree on questions you both want to address about your different religions, ideals and values. (Contact us for details on composing conversation questions.)

  4.  Review Heart & Mind Conversation guidelines, and agree to follow them in your conversation. (See below.)

  5. Set a time and quite place for at least a two-hour conversation.

Guidelines for setting up a conversations

  1. Two at a time: Include only two religious traditions in each encounter.

  2. Face-to-face: face-to-face duets work best, but no more than five to seven on each “side.”

  3. Eat together first: share personal life stories over a meal before the scheduled encounter.

  4. “Why” matters most: disclose fully any motives and purposes for the conversation.

  5. Make a plan: agree on topics, questions, schedule and place for the private conversation.

  6. Follow the rules: commit to adhere to The Way of Openness.

The Way of Openness

Be Honest

Honesty begins when you look in the mirror. Who do you really think you are and who do want to become? When you are deeply honest, you acknowledge your motives for doing things, and express your thoughts and feelings without faking it. Your honesty prompts others to respond the same way, and with open hearts and minds real communication results.

Be Kind

Kindness goes further toward building trust than the other practices listed here. It is not weak, or naive, or mere politeness. Kindness is a language easily recognized and understood by everyone. Sincere kindness is a powerful way to influence others to desire to hear you. But, be wise: nothing shatters trust more than phony, manipulative kindness, or false respectfulness.

Listen Well

It is hard to listen well when you focus more on your feelings and thoughts than those of the person addressing you. Listening well is not remaining quiet before you insert your response; it is intense focus on a unique person with a desire for understanding. By listening like this to others you offer the gift of respectful empathy that everyone craves to receive. In return others feel like they should listen well to understand you.

Share the Floor

If you want to be taken seriously you must take others seriously. Sharing the floor means allowing others equal time to speak even when you “know” you are right and they are wrong. It acknowledges the mutual dignity of those engaged in conversation. Hogging the floor is disrespectful and rude, and it always undermines your persuasive ability when you appear dismissive or fearful of what others have to say.

Presume Good Will

We often presume that others do not have our best interests at heart. Sometimes they don’t. But you sabotage any honest communication with someone you presume to be stupid, duped or ill-intentioned. Presuming good will is not agreeing with another’s beliefs or values. It means that you grant that others are clear thinking and good-hearted unless proven otherwise.

Acknowledge the Differences

Each human is uniquely different with a unique history and perspective. Acknowledging our important differences openly frees us to know where we stand without having to guess, and creates a tone of trust for real conversation. You cannot feel whole or honest if you focus only on similarities and avoid facing differences in deep beliefs and values.

Answer the Tough Questions

With genuine differences come tough questions—especially if the goal is a trusting relationship. When you ask answer tough questions in a straightforward way, sharing the floor equally and presuming good will, you build strong mutual trust. You can then face offensive issues without taking offense. However, diving deeper for better understanding has a limit. Aggressive interrogation or pushing for private details destroys trust.

Give Credit Where Credit Is Due

Any compliment feels good, but a sincere compliment from an unexpected source such as a rival or critic can move our hearts powerfully toward trust. By openly admiring the excellence or good on ‘the other side’ you demonstrate your honesty and fairness, and your confidence that your side can handle the truth. But be cautious—insincere compliments to manipulate or disarm others disastrously undermine any grounds for trust.

Speak Only for Yourself

Each of us is unique and we don’t like others—especially outsiders—to stereotype us or claim they know what we really believe or value. So ask, don’t tell others what they think and feel. It is tempting to speak for your friends and tribe members as if they all share the same view as you do. Except when you have been authorized to speak on behalf of others, speak only for yourself and encourage others to do likewise.

Keep Private Things Private

Humans are social beings, but their thoughts and feelings are private unless expressed. Personal dignity is based in large part on your freedom to choose when and where to share your inner self with others. Being open, honest and trustworthy does not require you (even if it were possible) to disclose all things to all people. Keeping private things private means you strictly honor someone’s choice to say something to you alone. If you cannot keep it private, you should ask the person not to share it.

The Way of Openness is an effective method for having a great exchange especially with someone who disagrees with you. However, prior to engaging the following guidelines are helpful to arrange for the conversation. No mediator is required, but a facilitator can be invited to observe and assist the conversation if parties feel the need.