We’re Working on Connecting and Spreading the Light
March 1, 2012 Leave a comment
It’s about that time again, the @Soliya Connect Program’s Spring 2012 semester kicks off in just a few days. We facilitators met up–online of course–to take a two-hour refresher course with master facilitators to discuss the Connect Program‘s goals and to do what Soliya folks do best: connect, collaborate, and share. Here, I’ll share what those program goals are and provide examples from my experience as a facilitator that illustrate those points unfolding in real time through dialogue.
But first, before we delve into empathy, critical awareness, cross-cultural communication and collaboration, and activation, let’s consider the image above. It’s a map that depicts flows of internet traffic–city to city connections. It’s beautiful and awful. It’s beautiful because it shows the bright light that is cast when human beings connect. It is awful because far too much of the world is left in the dark. What would it look like–our world–if we were to spread that light around?
Empathy–It begins, I suppose, with curiosity. How can we feel for another if we don’t first turn our mind toward him or her and inquire? It’s about finding a bit of quiet in mental, cultural, and social spaces filled with noise creating biases and tendencies that shape our habits and worldviews, and once within that quiet space asking, “What else is there?” When we begin to find that quiet and from it connect with others we can more readily acknowledge one another’s emotions, perspective, and humanity. The more we occupy that space and cultivate it so that is serves as a site for meeting, sharing, and risk-taking the more we grow to appreciate and respect the diverse perspectives articulated within that sweet garden. This, you can easily imagine, results in the development of positive and deep relationships among people who were at first strangers from around the world connected by their humanity and their participation in Soliya.
Critical Awareness–Eh, you know, this might come first. Indeed, we must each actively develop and engage a critical awareness in order to develop that quiet space I mentioned above. If we are buried under the noise of our own ideas, assumptions, and prejudices and are in the practice of accepting–uncritically–the innumerable media messages passing us by each day, we are flying blind. Critical awareness refers to the recognition of the underlying emotions, biases, and social norms that influence our own thinking and that of others. It’s about–again–hearing, feeling, and recognizing those different influences and the ways in which they shape our respective worldviews while allowing their to be room for more than simply asserting our own ideas. That connection space is where we share our ideas, hear the ideas of others, and through connection and collaboration we develop new ways of thinking.
Cross-cultural communication and collaboration skills–In the Connect Program we are meant to facilitate the development of participants’ skills to engage in constructive dialogue across cultural and linguistic barriers. Much of this is related to what I’ve written about critical awareness and empathy. It’s about recognizing that we don’t all have the same perspective, that my ideas aren’t necessarily the right ideas or the only way of thinking about or framing something. It’s about actively listening to others and allowing ourselves to step away from the need to assert our own ideas for a bit in order to consider and really hear another. Finally, successful cross-cultural communication requires a commitment to recognize–especially when emotions tend to run amok–the importance of engaging in a constructive manner. This commitment to working through, with, against, along side cultural and linguistic differences is what enables us to cross boundaries we may not have even realized existed.
Activation–Well, then what? Now that we are deconstructing stereotypes, bringing our various worldviews into an open and collaborative space for exchange, well, then what? What’s most important is the fact that the dialogue and the exchange do not come to a screeching halt once the Connect Program semester comes to an end. We work to build relationships with one another so that together we can make positive contributions–through our friendships and collaborations–to global dynamics. In short, it is up to each of us to shape the ways in which our respective societies relate.
We connect, we listen, we share, we create and we change the world we live in by building news ways of relating and collaborating. Join Soliya and feel the LOVE!