Difficult Conversations: Becoming the people we need to be to have the conversations we need to have is a free, half-day training workshop exploring a powerful set of principles and strategies that will allow you to engage in meaningful dialogue with anyone—regardless of economic, social and ideological differences.  

Those who take the workshop will:

  • Gain a greater understanding of the dynamics that turn conversations into conflicts.

  • Discover how one critical shift in thinking can turn a negative interaction into a creative and constructive engagement.

  • Understand how our personal story can be a tool to both build bridges and burn them.

  • Learn to access more easily and deeply their innate capacity for connection and compassion.

  • Become familiar with four principles that can turn a dialogue into a powerful tool for personal and collective transformation.

The interactive workshop is divided into four parts:

Part 1 highlights the imperative of engaging in meaningful conversation across our differences, and explores the dynamics that can make such conversations challenging. It then introduces what we call the two dimensions of communication: The mind, or analytical, difference-seeking dimension; and the heart, or relationship, unity-seeking dimension. It proposes that both mind and heart are needed, and that conflicts arise when there’s a "mind-heart disconnect."

Part 2 looks at the science behind the mind-heart disconnect, including how threats to our beliefs trigger the same defense mechanisms as threats to our physical survival. When that happens our “thinking brain” shuts down, and we lose the ability to empathize, listen and learn. At this point the mind dimension of communication alone is insufficient, so we look at how the heart dimension can heal this disconnect and allow the dialogue to continue. Finally we experience the power of the heart dimension by sharing part of our personal stories.

Part 3 looks at the deeper causes of the mind-heart disconnect, exploring why we find certain ideas or perspectives so threatening. For answers, we look again to our own life story, and see how it creates a bubble through which we see, interpret and interact with the world—often distorting our perceptions and causing miscommunication, misinterpretation and misunderstanding.

Part 4 introduces exercises that help us see beyond the bubble of our “story self,” unleashing our natural ‘heart’ capacities for empathy, connection and understanding—all essential for entertaining challenging perspectives and taking in a bigger picture. We then introduce a set of four practices that can help us more easily access these capacities “in the moment” as a difficult conversation unfolds.

All participants will have access to a list of continuously updated resources that go into more detail on the topics covered in each of the four workshop sections.