1.20 Civil Discourse Over Dinner 

INTRO: Welcome to the BiCurean podcast. Where we explore and embrace the seeming contradictions of life. What actually is BiCurean you ask? What's happening right now in terms of the divisions between us is a focus on that which is different. And lack of understanding and empathy for people's beliefs  is no longer an excuse. And it is in the differences we carry in ourselves  that we find the BiCurean moment. When you really dig into something you are going to see some depth to it. It's not just a race thing, it's just a conservation thing. It's letting go of the 'or' to make room for the 'and'. We embrace all of you. Welcome to the BiCurean.  

ERIK: Hi, I'm Erik.

AICILA: And I'm Aicila.

E: Welcome to this week's show.

A: This week's show is Civil Discourse Over Dinner.

E: Yeah. So we started having this conversation based on the fact that the holidays are coming up. People are going to be seeing their family.

A: Or other people they don't tend to see on a regular basis.

E: Right. And maybe you can give a little bit of background as to something that recently happened to you.

A: I could do that. So something you mentioned is that the climate of modern America is a lot of families are being somewhat  torn apart. Around pol- political, mostly political, ... issues. And I had the experience of posting something on Facebook that my sister took personally. And when I reached out to her, when I realized that it happened, she blew up at me. And this is- I mean we've always been on very different parts of the spectrum, politically. And this is the first time this has ever happened. Where she's lost it on me.

E: So I think it's safe to say because I've I've had several experiences talking to friends and family on my side, not me directly but but them having some sort of a falling out with another family member or friend over politics right now. Like we live in an incredibly divisive world in the political arena. And for some reason now more than ever it almost seems like you're more prone to run into some sort of "stopped talking to each other for a couple years" scenario over holiday dinner.

A: Yeah and and I wasn't willing to accept that. Like  it took me for a week or so to gather my courage and call her. ... I am not interested in living in a world where my sister and I aren't talking because of some weird random thing on Facebook.        ... And the conversation went well partially because I focused on the fact that I love her. I said I don't know what's going on. I don't know why this is upsetting.

E: But even mending that bridge you've sort of agree to disagree and not probably bring that stuff up and it's still weird.

A: Oh yeah it's not--  I was- I was a little embarrassed too. I've always been pretty proud of my family. I talk about it a lot. That we're really different and we don't ever have issues. And  we are able to talk about things. So it was  it really was quite surprising to me that there was a large reaction to something that was so random. And and it made me definitely reevaluate in terms of- I don't have any problems at her faith or her political beliefs. I don't see any issues with the way that she's doing her life. And her engagement with me brought out maybe she has issues with how I do my life and just has never said anything.

E: But she seems obviously be feeling it more enough now.

A: So yeah.

E: I mean we do this podcast. It does have the social justice slant to it. We try to be ... balanced in our view points and our premise here is to look at things from multiple viewpoints and understanding things from different angles. And that's not something that a lot of people can do. Nor what I make any claim that we don't probably come across from a certain point of view no matter how hard we try not to.

A: We have our bias.

E: On certain things we do.

 A: We have a bias. And we have our our perspective. And at the same time th- the goal is constantly to check our assumptions. And I'm hopeful that eh definitely there have been times when people have listened and responded and- and we've kinda added some things to that- whether it's been a blog or Facebook or whatever. And hopefully that will occur more. I'd really love to have that conversation with folks. And the conversation that I, and I actually brought it up on Facebook, that I was kind of engaged with, the questions I was engaged with in terms of prepping for this was, you know if you have people in your life that have vastly different political be- beliefs or ideologies, how do you keep your relationship honest? And also keep the relationship strong and connective? So not not pretending, because I feel like that's kind of what I ran into with my sister like on some level it seems like based on the things that she was saying, she's been pretending when we've talked about things. Where as you know with my dad it's different. Like he's really clear. Like we have different beliefs. I don't always agree with your life. Like we don't get into it. And he's very clear that he has a different perspective. And I'm clear with him. So it it doesn't feel dishonest and it still stays   strong connective. And I'm like  oh with my sister maybe it hasn't been honest. Maybe I haven't known that or she hasn't shared it. Or maybe like you said, it changed. Who knows?

E: Well and again I think we- it's really hard to not feel the pulls to extremes right now.

A: There is a lot of extremism. And it and you're right. Like there this this feeling of it's so easy. And that's for me part of why what we do is helpful.  It's so easy to get into the mindset. And then to realize oh wait a minute.

E: Right.

A: There's more going on here.

E: Yeah. So with that and in the spirit of that we've investigated some tactics to prevent anyone from blowing up Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner.

A: Or Kwanzaa or Passover-

E: or exactly

A: Whatever.

E: It's a time for families we should probably be able to get through those moments feeling pretty happy and not necessarily arguing. And as we see our friends more around the holidays and stuff. Sometimes it can be hard for this stuff not come up. And sometimes you find out that you're friends supported something you didn't realize. And you can get impassioned about it. So  the way that we wanted to approach this was to just have everybody think about non confrontational ways.

A: Or to recognize- So one of the, as I was going through, ... I put out some questions. For example, what if sharing my beliefs is core to my identity? So like I recognize that talking about my religion or politics or a political appointee or whatever, I recognize that that might be dangerous. And I this honest part, I don't feel like I can be honest if I don't actually express those feelings or those-  those points of view in the situation. And so for me that would that would beg the question of really recalling, for example, that most of us don't do particularly well in a large group situation if we feel embarrassed. It takes a fairly enlightened person to be able to acknowledge that something they're saying might be ignorant or harmful if they're you know in front of a bunch of people. They'll want to save face. Or it's just an instinct to protect yourself. So if you have something, like if you're at the dinner table and somebody says something, you can note that and then take them aside at some point. Say, let's go for a walk and express curiosity. Like where did that come from? Do you know this other thing that  I'm experienced with or whatever? Instead of creating the tension at the dinner table, where they're less likely to actually take in what you're saying.

E: Well you brought up something when we were talking about this earlier. People like to testify. A: They do. They like to testify.

E: And it could be their views on the word of god. It could be ... someone's views on racism in our culture right now. Or -

A: The #metoo  movement.

E: Or you know even just being very diametrically opposed-

A: Yes.

E: -to certain people who might be in power right now.

A: Exactly. And all of those things in a lot of ways expressions of faith.

E: Right. And your beliefs.

A: That's your beliefs. That's your faith. That's what you're- and testifying of that is, it's a powerful experience. It's a passionate moment.

E: Right and just like you might feel offended at something somebody says, especially if they're impassioned about it. Recognizing that other people might feel you know equally put off by your views. No matter how much you believe them. And how much you believe that they're right. And the minute you make that assumption, how can nobody else see and understand what I'm seeing and what I know to be true. Right.

A: Right. And and it's it's really a great idea to try and convince people to think like you or to change their minds. Interesting point of fact.

E: Hard hard not to do that for some people.

A: And for  all- and we all get caught up at different times. And I would say, so this  interesting fact, as you know I've mentioned many times The Hidden Brain is this podcast that I love. And one of the things, one of the episodes  they had was Romeo and Juliet in Kigali. And it was a story of genocide. And there's, and the study of genocide. And there's several things about it. I won't go into all of it. One of the things that they learned through this study of genocide. And then an application of a test to almost overcome genocide, is that while people rarely will change their views, they will often change what they do. So we can get caught up in "I really want you to think like me" because then I think you act like me. And that's actually not so much how it works. It's the actions, the behaviors that we take on are typically the result of what we have determined is socially acceptable. So right now it's socially acceptable to blow up at people and cut them out of your life. So people do this. There was a time when that was considered to be socially unacceptable. You don't cut people off.  You know did ditching family was a dramatic and uncommon gesture. It was a punishment. Now it seems to be like that our daily life. Everybody's got someone in the family they just don't talk to. So it's  also something to realize that trying to convince someone to believe like you actually isn't, if your goal is to live in a world where people behave differently, that's actually- it's not  generally not effective and it's ...  it's also not necessarily gonna get you what you want.

E: Exactly. Yeah and I I would agree. I think that again that's where the whole idea of testifying kind of struck me. Because usually when people are testifying they're explaining the various different things that they want to do. And and and- and make people understand their their view point to the point where you know the universal truth of whatever your position is on anything is revealed.

A: Well you said something earlier when we're prepping about the importance of sharing stories of how you're participating or engaging and things that you're doing to create the world you want to live in. As an alternative to testifying, if you will, to the right ness of a certain position. And I thought that was a really a smart approach.

E: I do  feel, and it's not a righteousness, but I do feel like in my day to day life I'm doing more. I I have a stance on certain things. And I have beliefs and what I feel is right and wrong. And I get on here and I do try to present a message that people can ... dissect, take apart, think about or whatever. I'm not even trying to change minds. I would like people to think more critically that's my goal. But in the end, you know, you and I both volunteer for different organizations and groups and try to stay involved and do different things like that. And so for me it's less about what I believe and more about what I'm doing.

A: And I think that's really powerful. And and ... you know that's the old saying right? Actions speak louder than words. And you know I have this friend I've told you about who- It's really funny because around the election two years ago, he wasn't even you know  fervently for a candidate that that I didn't like. His his online expressions around it I found to be sort of mean to people. And I just realized I didn't want to participate in that. And so I unfriended him on Facebook. And I don't frequently do that reactionary-ly.  Like I I feel like that's a pretty- it's not an important world. And then I wrote him an email. And I was- and I was really clear I said t you know I unfriended you on Facebook. And I just want you to know that it's because I don't feel like our digital relationship is particularly functional. However I really like you as a human in the world. He's the- he's the guy who shows up. Like he's a great neighbor even if you don't live near him. If you got a couch to move, he's he'll show up. If somebody's sick he'll bring them soup. Like he is a kind of person who is dedicated to the helpless and his family. And how he shows up online is not that way.

E: Well.

A: And I just realized that I wasn't liking him anymore.

E: That's a whole 'nother you know topic. ... I feel like the anonymity of the internet, it becomes a sounding board to throw your ideas out there and to take more fervent stances than most people would do in person.

A: Yeah.

E: I  mean the flame wars that happen, there's a reason you don't actually see them happening at a party or whatever. But we are getting to that point now at your you know dinner family event or whatever. It's starting to happen more.

A: Yeah. Well and and just to me for that for that. Really realizing  that a digital relationship could impact negatively an in person relationship. And that I wasn't even blaming him for it. I was simply recognizing that my view of him as a person was changing. And I didn't actually want that to change, cause I really liked him. He was a good guy. And I did recently re- friend him. And so far we're doing great. However in the last two years, we've spent plenty of time engaging in in life. And I I feel like that was a really great way for me to approach it in terms of not making him the bad guy. And that's another I think tip for an engaging with people who come from a different perspective is giving yourself a chance to really see them for who they are like-

E: Instead of their random Facebook posts.

A: Instead of the random fac-  or you know if you're at dinner and somebody you know makes, like my uncle. I've- I've written a blog about my uncle who passed away a couple years ago. And he was he was a crass and kinda judgey guy. And yet at the same time he was the first person to like literally he would give the shirt off his back for someone in need. Like he was a he was a show up, participate in the community, no one goes home hungry kinda guy. And and I feel like in some ways the politically correct movement has may be lost us something in terms of recognizing that sometimes people can deliver a good service with a bad attitude. And whether they have a good attitude or a bad attitude that person is still fed or sheltered or ... the old older person's walk is still shoveled. Like it doesn't have to be packaged in a pretty way to still be a benefit or a service.

E: Absolutely. I would say that you know if if there's anything that I've taken away from just having this discussion that led to us doing the show. It's to understand what it is to be compassionate. And look past beliefs and see if you can see the compassion in the person you're talking to. Regardless of how they might front.

A: Right. And and there is that. There's definitely that feeling you're not, when you don't feel safe whatever reason. And it was interesting because we did this  podcast a few weeks ago that I was super proud of. And I shared it with a friend of mine who is quite conservative. And we're still quite close and he loved it. And he said he wanted to share with his kids because he wanted them to know that not all social justice warriors were full of hate. And I thought, wow, you know when I talk to my lefty friends they’re like you know blah blah blah love the rig- the conservatives are so full of hate. And it's just so interesting to me that the the two perspectives really view that these other people are just full of hate. And they view themselves as being practical and compassionate and hard working. And and that was just a moment of pause for me that when somebody's saying a blah blah blah  that person's full of hate. That you know I know social justice warriors are not full of hate. And I also know what he's talking about.

E: Yep.

A: And I'm like okay that's good to know that's good to remember.

E: So ... in the spirit of this, we did some research. And came up with some basic recommendations that you can actually put into practice. And hopefully avoid some of these kinds of pitfalls. So ... starting on that list, number one: stick to non threatening conversations.

A: Yes.

E: Expand on that.

A: So if you if you really wanna have a family experience that is less likely to erupt into any kind of tension or argument; stick to things that are shared experiences like the weather for the holidays or family matters or media that you all of sports that you follow those kinds of things pop culture. Instead of the the more incendiary topics like politics or religion. I don't uh there was one of recommendations in an article I read said don't talk about sex at your family dinner. I just feel like that's probably generally more comfortable. ... I was- I had this moment I read that I make I cannot really picture sitting down to Thanksgiving with my dad and my sister and being like so what how's your sex life? So I'm not sure what they mean by that.

E: You know and I could even see some parallels to that if you are of an L. G. B. T. Q. plus ... slant. You know talking about ... deeper things involving your relationship with family that is comfortable or uncomfortable with that could qualify as forcing people to think about what your sex life is like.

A: That's that's fair well very well and that

E: Not to say that you can't be comfortable in who you are but approaching that from a way that's not confrontational is also okay.

A: Yeah and that's one of the things that I came up with in terms of so like you know what if sharing something about politics or religion or ...  you know about the person with in some way is core to my identity. And you know smaller groups, rather than a large conversation, large dinner conversation is probably better. And then the other thing I really think is important is to review for yourself why you want to be with these people. And if if you have a desire to be connective with them and you recognize that your lives are quite different, are you willing to make some compromises to allow the connection to be the most important thing? Or is there some part of you that is invested in in going to whatever this gathering is and proving a point or you know getting getting to judge them. And if so  maybe consider not going. Or recognize the it's not gonna be pleasant and and accept that that's your choice. You're choosing that.

E: Yeah. Well and that does bring up the second point which is, don't take the bait. I grew up in a household with a step father that liked to antagonize and he would antagonize anyone he could find. He would he would intentionally bring up inflammatory topics. I don't know what it to what end because all it ever did was make everybody uncomfortable. But the minute you bite that hook you're pulled into it. And  avoiding that situation, I think is very key to maintaining the peace. There's likely to be somebody in everybody's life that wants to tug on the string and get a rise. If you fall for it, now you're just you're playing their game. And likewise, pay attention to what you're doing. Don't be the baiter.

A: Yeah.

E: Don't bring up the subjects that you know  are going to inflame people just to prove a point. You know it goes both ways. Don't take the bait but don't throw it out there either.

A: Right. And the third one I really like is,   admit when you have stuck your foot in your mouth. So if you are- if you accidentally pop bait out on the table and you realize uh-oh that was what I meant to do. Step up and say I didn't mean to do that.

E: I didn't really want this entire conversation to revolve around politics or my beliefs.

A: I really am interested in spending time connecting with my family. If anyone genuinely wants to talk about this with me at another time, happy to do that.

E: Exactly.

A: I screwed up. It's always okay to say that.

E: Which leads us into the fourth point. You can always guide the conversation back to safer territory.

A: That's true.

E: And it can be tough. We're  impassioned   people. I imagine that people listening to us might consider themselves that way. ... You have a friend who said a quote that I still love and I think about all the time. Don't let yourself be defined by your enemies. And in that regard if making your impassioned argument is because you're raging against the unseen forces that you have no control over understand that inflaming things at a family or friend event is probably not gonna further that cause in anyway.

A: And the last one that they have here is if you must bring up a tough topic do so  with compassion.

E: Yeah.

A: Consider the people that you're with.

E: And that their viewpoints might be different and that doesn't make anyone as we were talking about earlier a bad person, just may be slightly different on view points.

A: And there there are people that I love very much. And that I interact with and I value as humans in my world that I don't spend as much time with. And and I know it's mutual because we we're just we're just different enough that going outside of the places that we meet creates a lot of not just discomfort agitation. And I value the connection. And I appreciate different perspectives in my world. So I don't want. I don't want to damage that.

E: Absolutely. And I think you know one final safety measure it's always safe to suggest we all play a card game.

A: It's always safe to suggest - well or game. In my family cards are not allowed. So. I'm just saying.

E: Which yeah, some games can cause just as much fervor. My family has a history of playing a very violent version of a card game that involves slapping and possibly hurt hands.

A: And this may be how your family avoids tense topics.

E: We don't usually have a tense topic. We just end up having some cards slapped down.

A: There you go. So and then there's a a system called L.A.R.A. The L.A.R.A. method ... it's from non- nonviolent communication. If- if someone is talking about something and you're feeling a sense of I do really want to participate in a way that's positive or connective and we are on opposite ends of the earth here. It's a really great approach. It's- and basically the L.A.R.A. method L.A.R.A is short for listen. So someone starts  talking you listen. And you listen until you can find something you can affirm. So for example when I came out to my dad he was very unhappy that I was identifying as lesbian. And I could listen to him as he talked about it and finally get to he was actually really worried for me. He was worried for my safety. That he didn't think the the world was safe for gay people. And I was his daughter. And I could affirm that, I had kids. I could and say I really understand that dad. I would be scared if my kids are doing something that I didn't think was safe. I appreciate that you care about me. Right. Like I could I could I confirm that and at that point we are actually connected. So not connecting with him on coming out or being gay is bad. I'm connecting with him on I understand being scared that someone you love might not be safe. Right?

E: Right.

A: And in the 'R' in L.A.R.A. respond is then you ... add information. So usually people go from listen to respond they don't do the affirm and the affirm is actually really important part of a positive-

E: Because you're acknowledging the point they made.

A: Not just acknowledging the point they made. You're acknowledging something you can genuinely connect to. Sometimes that means listening for a long time. I mean a really long time. Because you have to find something you can genuinely connect to. Not just give it a nod and a wink right? And then the response is where you but I you know when I say to my dad, okay I can hear what you're saying. And I understand that. So I can respond to what he's talking about and make sure we're on the same page. You mean the safety thing, yes okay. And then the last part of it is the add. So L. A. R. A. So adding would be, in that example, I would say okay I understand that. And I think the world will be safer for LGBT people when more people come out. And more people who are dads and siblings and mom's stand up and say this is not a thing. I can add that. And doing it that way. Like if I just started there. If he said that and I just started with, like you're making it worse because you're not supporting me. That's really confrontational. But walking through that process of affirming responding and then adding. It actually ends up being a much more connective conversation. And because the person genuinely feels like you're listening to them, they will match you and genuinely listen to you. That doesn't mean necessarily that's going to change their mind. However their compassion is gonna be out. And they're gonna feel a sense of safety in being genuine. So  you can have a much better conversation about the whole thing. And it doesn't tend to get as fractious and rancorous as the another kind of conversation.

E: Yeah.

A: So it's a really great tactic. You can look up nonviolent communication. I'll put it in the show notes, of course.

E: Yeah. I was gonna say let's link to that and  everybody can read more about that if you think it's going to be important. And to end  the entire thing, I think it's very important to bring this up. You are allowed to be impassioned about your beliefs. That's that goes for me and you and our listeners you're allowed to. But think about if the forum where you are, with friends or family, is the right place to express that passion. Is it can I really have a positive impact? Is it going to do anything positive in that moment. This isn't about giving up your desires to do good things and believe the way that you believe. But it may be isn't  the right forum for that.

A: I do want to say I'm not not encouraging people to stay silent in the face of things that they find to be-

E: If the racist uncle is going off, you could maybe say that's not appropriate. I'm uncomfortable by that.

A: Right. You can you can respond in a way that sets a boundary and I think that's important. I think that there's a balance to it. And like you said like making a personal in a certain way that makes me uncomfortable. Can we-

E: "I" statements are always good. "I" statements are always good.

A: I- you know- I just never want anyone to feel a sense of like I'm encouraging them to not stand up for themselves or for the things they believe in. And also to figure out like what is their priority. Is their priority getting on a platform with a point of view or is their priority connecting? And if and if the things are staying in a safer zone maybe just enjoy that. It's a few hours, once a year.

E: I completely agree. So with that, we wish everybody health  and safety and happy holidays. And hopefully a whole lot less arguing.

A: And a lot more connecting.

E: Welcome to the BiCurean  moment.

A: Yes. So my moment is a little bit in line with the topic of our show, which is we can love problematic things. So, you know I think about stuff like spending time with people that I really care about who are on a different place in the political world. And who genuinely believe things that I have a very strong conviction are damaging.

E: You have always impressed me with the fact that you can get along with people in that way and it's inspirational.

A: Thank you. And and just to recognize that in this in there and it's a constant question like I've talked to you about- or I showed you that show Hannah Gatsby's Nannette. It's so amazing. And you know she makes the point that you know Picassa   did some things that were pretty horrific. And then people say you know separate  the man from the art except you-

E: But Cubism.

A: But Cubism. But nobody ever owns a lego whatever. They own a Picasso. You can actually separate Picasso from his art. He is his art in a certain way. And so I think it's a constant question of what is sort of lovable right and problematic. And how important is it to say okay actually this goes too far. And I think it's a personal situation for everybody.

E: It's about your personal boundaries.

A: It's about your boundaries. And it's about your beliefs. And it's about the impact that you believe something has or your experience of it. Yet, also I think giving ourselves a break. And saying okay yes there's there's a bunch of stuff going on here that ideologically is conflictual for me. It's problematic. And I still love it. Whatever that looks like. And so that's just a I think another point to make for ... for me to remember. I don't have to be so extreme. We none of us has to be so extreme. One thing doesn't have to mean another. There's there's not these black and white if then statements around the things in our world that matter to us.

E: Yep.

A: And sometimes sure you have to draw a line. And say this steps over it. And I feel- I feel like in a certain way people are quick to do that because of the discomfort of working through the mess and the challenge of the different things that are going on is pretty big. It's a pretty big discomfort.

E: Yeah. Well the advice would be define  your boundaries with what you really feel like you can do. And make your choices around that. And stand by the courage of your convictions in that regard. But if you choose to admire Picasso's art in spite of the fact that he may not have been a great man. That's okay. Just understand maybe what the distinction for you is. Appreciating art is a thing. And you're not by any means ... appreciating what he did that may have been questionable.

A:  That's mine.

E: Mine is a lot less fun but-

A: No it's not. It' a great one.

E: So  ... also in line with the show topic. We brought up being at dinner and getting through that. And then just crushing massive meals. I would like to remind everybody that just because it's the cold winter months and the holiday season it may pay not to wait until January to stay a little bit active. I was reading about some recent studies that not exercising can be worse for your health than smoking. And a lot of people don't tend to think about that stuff. And I am a little bit of a physical fitness buff. I am a cyclist and have always enjoyed a certain amount of physical activity help my mental state and helps me with focus. ... So I sleep better on the days that I work out. And just in general it's been great for my health, mentally and physically. But in general don't necessarily use this time of year as an excuse to blow off some of that stuff. Yeah. Relax. Let it go a little bit. But try to stay active. You will come out feeling better about yourself and maybe less guilty about the situation you got yourself into.

A: Pumpkin pie.

E: And I am- I fully admit that I love food and so working out for me does give me a little bit of flexibility in what I can do and not feel bad about when I indulge so.

A: And you know a person hosts an annual fondue party.

E: That's true.

A: Which is not what I would call low calorie.

E: Not at all. So just a PSA. Stay active if you can.

A:  That's another really important thing around this time of year. Is it's easy to get sedentary and to indulge in all the delicious.

E: And and then come January join the masses in the idea of suddenly  undoing everything. Whereas it's a lot easier to just sort of be doing that all the time than to try to undo it.

A: Yes, yes it is.

E:  On January first. So that's mine.

A: So thanks for listening. If you have ideas, feedback, thoughts please find us on social media. BiCurean  on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Or you can always give us a call at 720-507-7309 or email us at podcast at BiCurean  dot com.

E: If you do think about, please give us a review. It really does help with getting our podcast noticed. And we really appreciate that.

A: Have a good week.

E: Thanks for listening.