The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Max Feingold '22 RGLP Reflection: Tools for Dialogue Across Difference

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My time with the Rockefeller Global Leadership Program opened my eyes to many aspects about myself and the world that I did not know. I talked to people with different experiences from mine and heard stories about people whose lives seemed unimaginable to me. However, my biggest takeaways were the tools I have acquired for navigating differences in culture, language, country, race, or anything that may make dialogue uncomfortable or more difficult. From all of our discussions and lectures, the three main tools that I identified for aiding dialogue across difference were adaptability, understanding of oneself, and understanding of the other.

Adaptability is the most important of these tools. Whenever we are engaging in dialogue with diverse people, it is important to not be completely set on our own ways and customs, and instead approach every situation with an open mind. We may be used to people speaking and acting in a particular way, and someone challenging these notions can make us uncomfortable. When we are adaptable, we can adjust to anything that is thrown our way and can hopefully try becoming more comfortable in these uncomfortable situations. Second, I learned the importance of understanding oneself and one’s own identity. Every time we enter a new situation, we will be perceived a different way and we will enter with our own perceptions.  When we understand our own identity and thought processes, we can use them more tactfully to engage in dialogue without unconsciously using our biases. Everyone has implicit biases, but you cannot begin addressing them without understanding them. Finally, it is important to try and understand others when we have differences. We may not be able to comprehend the entirety of another person’s experience, but it is important to try and put ourselves in the other person’s shoes. Ignorance is one of the most dangerous qualities in regard to dialogue across difference and learning at least a little about others can go a long way.

 

Written by Max Feingold, a member of the Winter 2021 Cohort of the Rockefeller Global Leadership Program

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