“… if you’re a teacher your words can be meaningful, but if you’re a compassionate teacher, they can be especially meaningful. If you’re a doctor you can do some good things, but if you’re a caring doctor you can do some other things.” ~ Bryan Stevenson

I came across mention of Bryan Stevenson‘s book and work twice in one day … always a sign for me to take notice and delve more deeply.

The first was in a mention of his book in the bulletin for a gathering; the second, later that afternoon, was when I came across it again while doing some research on a long-time focus for my work, and a theme that’s spiraling back up around for me. (Stay tuned on the latter.)

He emphasizes that, “… our visions of technology and design and entertainment and creativity have to be married with visions of humanity, compassion and justice.”

An illuminated Way. Image from University of Spiritual Healing and Sufism.

Stevenson’s TED Talk is just a sampling of truly elegant, compassionate communication — extremely effective — on topics that are very challenging for many people to (1) acknowledge; and (2) talk about without going into fight, flight, freeze, react mode. And it is understandable.

I truly appreciate his blend of sharp insight, clear voice, elegance, compassion, and straight-forwardness that lifts vital issues into a space where some who may be inclined to react-and-attack, or react and go into cognitive dissonance, can instead hear the message in a way that engages heart, compassion, and conscience.

It’s no small feat, or artistry, to weave compassion-inviting dialogue rather than conflict.

Stevenson says, “I also believe that in many parts of this country, and certainly in many parts of this globe, that the opposite of poverty is not wealth. I don’t believe that. I actually think, in too many places, the opposite of poverty is justice.”

Discussing what we call ‘loaded issues’ has often been a challenge. I saw that first-hand during years of facilitating meetings with high levels of contention and conflict already well-stirred-up: People shouting each other down out of a blend of ignorance (not having the full story); an inability to stay open, listen, and ask questions that expand and deepen understanding (actual dialogue); and the instinctive closing that occurs when the name-calling, accusation, or worse, starts erupting.

We’ve all seen that for years, if not more; and there are times — like now — when the propensity for provocation, bullying, shouting down, inciting reaction (high-conflict tendencies that separate and divide) is heightened and in full-tilt expression in the public, and personal, spheres.

Rakotz Brücke, Germany. Image courtesy of Amazing Places on Earth.

Stevenson’s example is but one, and provides a look at one alternative for talking about challenging and important subjects in a way that invites and engages, extends a bridge to expanded and compassionate understanding and dialogue, rather than slamming the door shut on any sort of meaningful dialogue and thus deeper understanding and reciprocal compassion that may well lead to both healing and truly inspired solutions.

Here’s his TED Talk; his web site link, to delve a bit more deeply, is below it.

Find more on Bryan Stevenson and Just Mercy at his web site.

Stay tuned (or connect with me for conversation) for more on compassionate, skillful communication.

Big Love,

Jamie