We have received feedback that our past efforts to create Dialogue Workshops for members of different affinity groups that allow for balanced expression of different perspectives have not been successful. Some attendees feel like they are in the minority and that their perspectives aren’t adequately represented in the dialogue. Others perceive that stories can be told with the objective of dismissing or discrediting other stories and that attendees speak past each other even as they are talking about their own life experiences.
In an effort to find a solution, each Dialogue Workshop will be facilitated by two mental health professionals of different perspectives and two lay community members of different perspectives. The professionals’ objectives will be to guide a discussion among attendees about their experiences and feelings about their past and current interactions with members of their affinity group they disagree with. Instead of only telling stories, community members will have the opportunity to respectfully talk about how their stories impact each other and the implicit and often likely unintended messages that can be sent when people who disagree about issues that include strong emotions try to honestly communicate, love and accept each other.
Affinity Group Dialogues Workshops will be guided by the Standards of Ethical Communication and Conflict Resolution