The Importance of Dialogue

The Importance of Dialogue

By Aletta de Savornin Lohman

After arriving in Reeuwijk, we kicked off a weekend that aimed to convey to us the importance of dialogue. In the struggle for justice we are often confronted with people whose opinion differs from ours and who hold bigoted beliefs, which triggers a strong emotional response that–and I admit myself to being guilty of this at times–leads us to ignore their reasoning. We are prompted into a rant that is not aimed at holding a constructive conversation but rather at defending ourselves from an attack on our humanity, our value and our identity. Both Lenka Adema, a self-employed senior mediation expert from the Hague, and Maja Nenadovic, a dedicated debate coach, provided us with tools to speak to and possibly educate the next person sitting opposite to me in a bar explaining to me why women’s biology makes them unfit for leadership or why we deserve sexual assault based on our wardrobe.

On Saturday, Lenka helped us identify this outrage as our ‘limbic mode’ and taught us how to channel our emotions into constructive dialogue. She provided us with useful ground rules on conversation and highlighted the importance of body language. We were introduced to Maja Nenadovic the next day whose method of ‘radical’ empathy designed to address conflict, particularly amongst vulnerable and marginalized groups in society, confronted us with the consequences of our speech: ‘I come from a country which no longer exists because people stopped talking’. I believe this sentence encapsulates the very core message of our gathering. We also addressed the implications of her method, making sure that the emphasizing of dialogue does not burden the oppressed in a way that suggests they should initiate it, but merely provides a tool in situations where they are forced to.