Why does RVSD leadership consistently refuse public dialogue, mediated community debates or legal mediation?
“For too many of us, it’s become safer to retreat into our own bubbles, whether in our neighborhoods or college campuses or places of worship or our social media feeds, surrounded by people who look like us and share the same political outlook and never challenge our assumptions.
-President Barack Obama | January 10, 2017
In his final address to the nation, President Obama highlighted the need for engaging in dialogue and hearing differing points of view. Referencing the disturbing trend of college students protesting speakers whose views they dislike, the President called it “a recipe for dogmatism.” The President pointed to the need for all of us to recognize the psychological confirmation bias that prevents us from seeing any possibility of validity in dissenting perspectives. “Increasingly,” he said, “we become so secure in our bubbles that we accept only information, whether true or not, that fits our opinions, instead of basing our opinions on the evidence that’s out there.”
According to Columbia University Leadership and Ethics Professor Katherine W. Phillips, interacting with a diverse group of people leads to “better decision making and problem solving. Diversity can improve the bottom line of companies and lead to unfettered discoveries and breakthrough innovations. Even simply being exposed to diversity can change the way you think.” She insists, “this is not just wishful thinking: It is the conclusion I draw from decades of research from organizational scientists, psychologists, sociologists, economists and demographers.” In fact, she and her colleagues found that when preparing for conversations about disagreements with people who are politically different, we work harder than when we do when preparing to discuss disagreements with those who are politically similar. In other words, bridging divides encourages people to work harder, and produces better results.
In order to solve any problem, the one sine qua non is dialogue. Helena’s founder and CEO instinctively knows this. At the core of his membership group, he told me, is the belief in dialogue between diverse thinkers. Through Helena, which does not promote the interests of any government, corporation, or political party, nor does it espouse or endorse any political, economic, or religiousbelief, Elkus and partner Samuel Feinburg convene a diverse group of thinkers in dialogue, fellowship, and common purpose. Together, they have produced a number of philanthropic projects including the recent Helena Prize, which successfully united leading climate scientists and corporations behind an effort to address climate change.
According to Elkus, members “hold very strong, frequently diverging beliefs. But those beliefs are not intractable. Our purpose is to arrive at solutions to big issues collectively, even if it means our own arguments have been proven wrong.” The process of solving problems and implementing solutions, he says, “necessitates forming a community” of people who hold diverse viewpoints and need to work together.”
Read the article in Psychology Today by Pamela B. Paresky Ph.D.