Why Can't We Talk? Dialogue as a Habit of the Heart

John Backman, Author
John Backman. SkyLight Paths, $16.99 trade paper (176p) ISBN 978-1-59473-443-4
Reviewed on: 10/29/2012
Release date: 11/01/2012
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-1-4596-4997-2
Ebook - 978-1-59473-484-7
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If you can imagine, rather than a finger-pointing presidential debate, two candidates listening respectfully to each other and trying with sincerity to mirror back an understanding of the other's point of view, you have arrived at the heart of Backman's idea of dialogue. The author, a member of the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation and an associate in the Order of the Holy Cross, a community of Benedictine Episcopal monasteries, urges us to step away from our attempts to persuade --or demean -- others and instead build relationships based on respect for the humanity of the people we disagree with. Doing this involves grounding ourselves in ancient Christian spiritual practices through which we can internalize humility and empathy. Backman discusses confronting disagreements and offers concrete suggestions for pursuing dialogue in contentious settings. The book is a useful antidote to a polarized society and would work admirably for a reading group, as the questions at the end of each chapter are intelligent, thought-provoking and open-ended. (Nov.)
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