Spaces for intentional, in-person dialogue are becoming nonexistent.
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When was the last time you had an incredible conversation uninterrupted by technology?
Participants of a TL Session respect each other by listening to the current speaker as if s/he is the most important person in the world at that moment. In particular, this means all technology is put away unless the presenter explicitly allows it because it is relevant to his/her topic.
In the world of ubiquitous connectivity made possible by smartphones, we have lost our ability and desire to listen to one another. Our attention is constantly scattered—we neither hear others nor felt heard:
A quick glance at a notification, a hastily composed email, or a scroll through an Instagram feed—these actions are but a breeze with the powerful computing devices in our hands. Such easy access to unlimited digital worlds can fracture attention, which people could otherwise be dedicating to the people standing next to them.
Digitally Connected, Socially Disconnected
...or at least appear to. When a participant is talking, body language of other participants is neutral to ensure that the ideas being divulged are exactly the perspective of the speaker. Participants attempt to suspend judgment on ideas until all perspectives have been laid out on the table.
Our ability to suspend judgment and delve into the perspective of another is at the core of human nature. Practicing suspension enables us to better empathize with other’s thoughts and emotions.
Between 1990 and 2010 there has been a 40 percent decline in empathy among American college students, a trend that researchers link to the new presence of digital communications. If we lose this ability to simply suspend our judgment and entertain another’s perspective—even just for a short period of time—we become less tolerant, lonelier, more egocentric, more dogmatic, and, overall, less knowledgeable.
When participants agree or disagree with each other, it is mutually understood that they are agreeing or disagreeing with each other’s ideas, not personally attacking each other.
We often sacrifice the authenticity of a meaningful dialogue because we are either too scared to be wrong, or too scared to make others feel wrong. In some interactions, we are so determined to be right, that we fight for our argument and combat anything and anybody that challenges it. In other interactions, we are so desperate for approval, that we purposely hold back our truth so as not to poke at other’s sensitivities.
Political correctness is America's newest form of intolerance, and it is especially pernicious because it comes disguised as tolerance. It presents itself as fairness, yet attempts to restrict and control people's language with strict codes and rigid rules...I'm not sure silencing people or forcing them to alter their speech is the best method for solving problems that go much deeper than speech.
When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops?
...and from personal experience. Participants share personal stories in lieu of citing authorities when possible. The presenter strives to bring participants to the frontier of their thinking on their topic and inspire others to give their unique perspectives on it. Specifically, participants are not to present themselves as experts in positions of authority on their topic.
To avoid becoming dogmatic, and to have truly fulfilling conversations, we must first reflect upon and question our own beliefs and experiences in solitude. However, in our world, it is easy to sacrifice solitude for digital connection, making us less prepared for meaningful interactions with others.
In one experiment, people were asked to sit quietly—without a phone or book—for fifteen minutes. At the start of the experiment, they were also asked if they would consider administering electroshocks to themselves if they became bored. They said absolutely not...But after just six minutes alone, a good number of them were doing just that…
If you talk a lot, this is a good chance to learn to listen better. If you’re generally shy, this is a place where people came to listen to you and won’t judge you! Generally, participants shouldn’t speak for more than 90 seconds at a time.
There is a dramatic inequity of voice in our modern culture. Participating in social media is like standing in a great room where, rather than engaging in conversations with the people near us, we struggle to be heard by as many other people as possible.
In this scenario, those who stand on the tallest platforms and yell the loudest drown out all others; and those who have something to say may say it, but there is no guarantee that anyone is listening. This is the problem with social media and digital communication platforms: they claim to replace conversation and democratize human connection, but they do not.