Conversation is the potential path to empathy. When tapping into empathy, a human can more easily be seen on the other side…and that is when the meaningful connection can be made together.
It is a place where our moral compass kicks in and we begin to treat the other’s perspective with more respect. It is a place where agreeing or disagreeing is not the point of the conversation. It is just a place to connect and share our completely unique vantage points with each other. It is a place where we don’t have to feel so alone in this world and…even if we disagree from our circumstantial view points…we, as individuals, now feel that we can be heard…and seen.
Not only can empathetic conversations create more meaningful relationships, but humanizing the conversation could also positively impact issues of needless war, misrepresentation in politics, and systems of oppression. Seeing each other as human beings is powerful in establishing egalitarian communities and societies.
And, as there is more emphasis placed on mental health, humanizing the approach to the conversation inside each of us would create unarmed and humane self-care. Instead of having to force or control ourselves to make changes in our lives, wouldn’t it be really nice to pause and inspire ourselves to be the imperfect and attainable people we can be in that significant moment of life in front of us?
These potential conversations have the power to make us more collective in our pursuits, more successful in our individual lives, and find deeper connections that will finally give us a sense of belonging.
Potential though. Conversations can be approached with an open mind, curiosity, empathetic listening, as collective human beings, and without going into battle for the glory of “I AM RIGHT!”
However, we have all seen what happens when conversations meet that point of resistance. This is where the trend of objectifying and dehumanizing surfaces. It almost always stems from an approach that is argumentative in proving that “MY VIEW POINT IS UNMISTAKABLY RIGHT!”
For example, let’s say a conversation is happening and it only involves two people. I am one of those people and I am the one in the conversation trying to prove that my point is right.
I am dehumanizing you in this example because you now feel that you don’t have a say in this conversation, your vantage point doesn’t count, and you (as an individual) don’t matter to me. In this sad and frustrating circumstance, people feel and do many various things in response.
Some will retreat to objectify and dehumanize themselves while feeling aggressive towards that person. Some will actively stand up to this person in an aggressive way. Some will stick around until that person looks them in the eye to see that they are human too. No matter how it is handled, that human being (that I aggressively went to battle with) was disrespected, which can have lasting, negative effects on their psyche, energy, and humanness…and, until they can bounce back with inspiration, that person in this example tends to dehumanize me and others with that aggressive anger.
I am dehumanizing myself in this conversation because I am telling myself that I have to be right. When I am wrong, I don’t feel good…therefore, I must always be correct and comfortable. This would mean that I believe in perfection…that it is possible to never be wrong…that I could never feel bad…and, that I could be capable of knowing everything. For instance, I could know about all the species of insects on the planet…even though an estimated two to thirty million insect species have not even been seen or named yet.
When I seek perfection, I have long winds of feeling anxiety, despair, and frustration. And that is because of goals like “I have the ability to feel good all the time.” And then, when I would feel bad, I would get anxious to fix it…and then I would feel even worse because I became tense about the original reason that I didn’t feel good…and so on and so forth in that never ending cycle. I used to justify that it was the best way to live…that perfection was the path to happiness and success.
Now, I have a better understanding that perfection is impossible due to the amount there is to know and how time is constantly changing everything as we know it. But, it wasn’t obvious to me until I tried to calculate how I could possibly attempt to 100% understand myself, everyone, and everything in my lifetime alone.
Accepting that I am human means accepting that I will never know everything, that my vantage point is not the only perspective out there, and that I will never fully understand myself. It means accepting that I can’t be perfect. And, that I am good enough…and, this moment is good enough…to be whoever I am with whatever this context is right now.
So, in the example of the conversation where I am arguing to prove I am right, I am dehumanizing myself too because I am stating to myself and the world that my view point matters and yours does not…that my view point is THE view point…which is impossible…therefore, not human. I am also dehumanizing myself because when I do end up finding myself wrong, then I am as aggressive to my own self as I was to that person. I make myself feel that I don’t have a say, my vantage point doesn’t matter, and that I (as a whole person) am bad. Or…I try to distract from that reality and that aggressive voice my whole life.
Dehumanizing and objectifying becomes a vicious cycle. So, I want to learn how to gently yet courageously jump into it with a conversation that can be open minded, curious, and full of empathetic and detailed listening.
This will take many subtle skills that each of us as individuals would have to learn through our own experience and personality by awkwardly experimenting in conversations. For me, these more astute skills will be identified and practiced through an overarching approach that I can walk into each conversation with:
I am not going into battle…that is not the point of this conversation. I am walking in with my point of view that I have established to this point in my life so far. I am walking in where the other person has a point of view that they have established to this point in their life so far. And, we are both walking into a constantly changing context that has landed right where it is now in this moment in front of us.
I am not here to “feel good.” I am here to connect on a meaningful level.
I am not here to defend what I walked in with. I am not here to defend that my “side” is right…because you are observing from an angle that I cannot even begin to look from without this conversation…and, also, I cannot possibly know everything. So, I am here to listen and gather as much detail as I can to understand your point of view…to hear you…to see you.
I am not here to remain silent out of fear either. I am here to talk with you about my point of view because (as a human) I am also allowed to access and share my experience and perspective. And with this, hopefully, we can both realize that this isn’t a battle…that we can talk…that we can see each other no matter if we agree or disagree…that we can connect on the meaningful level of human to human, eye to eye, and respect for a different angle of the human experience.