As highly charged as the current climate is these days for civic discourse, it seems deep discussions we could be having with friends, family and neighbors are increasingly avoided like the measles.
Have we lost the ability to engage in meaningful conversations?
Apparently, Myisha Cherry thinks so. The assistant professor of philosophy at UC Riverside has a new book out, "Unmuted: Conversations on Prejudice, Oppression, and Social Justice," which is based on her monthly social-political podcast "UnMute."
The Ethics Center, as a convener of public conversations about society's most pressing issues, invited Cherry to Stanford on May 9, 2019, to share her insights on an increasingly fraught proposition — talking to each other.
Spoiler alert: The problem usually isn't the topic. It's us.
Cherry says we should first ask ourselves three simple questions that can reveal the different kinds of behaviors that tend to torpedo conversations.
Seeing how others perceive us is a common struggle, but Cherry says we need to understand how we come across because character matters in conversations. She calls out three archetypes that we should avoid embodying, because no one wants to talk to:
Cherry's advice: Be humble. Comfort the other person and watch them open up.
As someone who admits to being "obsessed" with conversations, Cherry has identified three "destructive moves" that she’s seen committed time and again:
Cherry's advice: Pay attention to whether you make any of these moves, and then stop it.
There’s nothing wrong with having a confidant, but Cherry advocates for greater awareness about the roles we sometimes pigeonhole people into:
Cherry's advice: Understand that others have unique perspectives, knowledge, emotions and experiences — but also a shared humanity.
“The reality is, is that we are not what we think we are,” Cherry concludes. “So we need to begin to change, to not see ourselves as superior to other people, and also, not to see ourselves as the center of the universe."
Watch her full talk and excerpts on our YouTube channel