Thursday, August 20, 2015

Principles and Practices, Not Personalities

Sometimes I feel like I could just let out a loud bellow and scream. I get so exasperated with life by media, life by internet, life through celebrities – and politicians; a life that side rails true connectedness by the distancing we create from one another. 

Last Thursday evening’s Coffee House Conversation by Conference Call might have been one of those times.  We were, not quite consciously, heading ourselves into stormy weather, polarized discussion on the horizon; not the typically edifying conversation we generally have. 

We did, however, have a saving alternative; our dedicated group of participating contemporaries; like-minded when it comes to a devotion for ascending the potholes of human foibles rather than sinking into them. Politics was initially blamed for our breach. However, careful observation later revealed that there was more to it than warranted a mere blaming of politics.
Prompted by common sense I did my homework.

Next time in this forum, directly preceded by the New Horizons’ sponsored Possible Society In Motion Radio Show, I will be better prepared to guide this wonderful “ship of heroes” in a smoother sailing. 

I am grateful that I have a great team to work with  in this forum as our participants, as a group, are more invested in the community-building process by conversation we have been developing in this program, rather than “being right” or taking a solitary path.  It, sometimes, gets lonely recycling your thoughts and ideas all on your own; stagnation may sometimes be all you get for the effort.

In fact, I believe, the other participants and I yearn for the richness these discussions generate on a bi-weekly basis. (Perhaps you, too, have hungers of this nature. So you just might want to dial in and join us; Coffee House Conversations brought into your living room.)

In this particular segment, you can, nonetheless, hear us, well-meaning conversers, come close to embroiling ourselves in the fire of ordinary debate on its way to becoming polarizing.   We were, however, saved by the bell of “We are almost out of time,” pulling ourselves back from the precipice into a last few moments of detached observation.

Upon listening to the taped replay of the discussion, I could hear how we moved ourselves ever nearer and nearer to a plunge into the potential for darkness in ourselves and one another that we have repeatedly spoken against, adamantly. It didn’t take much.

For my part, one thing I learned, as the ship’s captain here, is that I need to take more responsibility to utilize my professional expertise in group dynamics, conflict resolution and community-building in order to be more conscious of the personal triggers in our discussions that can lead us into this kind of jumping off and do my part to keep us on course.

Among the most valued tools I have for averting snags of this nature in the future is a wonderful piece New Horizons has borrowed from one of our favorite community development resources, Everyday Democracy. We call it “Contrasting Dialogue and Debate.”  You can read our version at: Contrasting Dialogue and Debate.

Additionally, I need to take responsibility to see that we utilize the exceptional principles and practices suggested in this. Borrowing from Alcoholics Anonymous, I also need to do my part to make sure that I steer our discussions into exploring the basic principles behind potentially heated topics, such as religion and politics etc., that might arise through our discussions.  This too can be a guiding concept for avoiding communication breakdowns in the future.

AA has been stressing "principles rather than personalities" for many decades as a basic healing premise for the AA organizational operations. Just look at their track record for enhancing the lives of individuals and creating a sustainable community life through carefully designed principles and their related practices with this intent; "principles not personalities." Hopefully we do not need to only be recovering alcoholics in order to guide our own selves and to help one another to a similarly higher plane  of personal well–being and community unity.

Listening to the taped discussion helped me see that, if we are not alert, hot button subject can break down what might otherwise be fruitful exchange. And press us into territories that rob us of our precious time together. Once again I realize that it is the manner in which we discuss issues that brings tension, conflict, bitterness and resentment. Not the subject matter.  

Should you be interested in listening to our close encounter with a tiny bit of darkness, you can, by special arrangement, hear a recording of that particular Coffee House Conversation by Conference Call forum. Contact me, Anastasia at, to access to that discussion.

Better yet, join us for our next forum, Thursday evening August 27 at 7 p.m. Details at this link. The best alternatives do take some patience and practice. Yet some of us are making the time through our Coffee House Conversations by Conference Call, even when it gets a bit rocky.

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