“Uniting Fractured Communities Through Dialogue” with Kathleen Oweegon
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- Kathleen and Duncan discuss how dialogue is severely underused when it could solve many problems.
- Kathleen tells a powerful story about bringing police officers and activists together with dialogue after an event where both were injured.
- Discover the key guidelines for successful dialogue.
- Understand the distinction between dialogue and debate.
- Duncan and Kathleen talk about how scary the current state of polarization and objectification is in our world.
- Learn how our defensive behaviors further the divide.
- Kathleen tells a beautiful story about uncovering the stories below piercings and tattoos.
Click here to download the transcript
Duncan Autrey: Well, Kathleen welcome to the Omni Win Project podcast. I’m so excited to talk with you, and thank you for making the connection. It’s nice to fight another co-creator of Peace in the world, .
Kathleen Oweegon: Thank you, Duncan. Thank you Duncan. I am delighted to be with you today. Thank you.
Duncan Autrey: So, you know, I so I understand that you have been working in negotiation, collaboration, dialogue, mediation, this whole field conflict transformation for a while now.
And I think one of the questions I wanna ask you is, what is something that you just wish people knew about this field? It’s potential and, and, you know, especially around its ability to connect us across our differe.
Kathleen Oweegon: I appreciate you asking me that, Duncan, because I do feel that the field of mediation and facilitation and most especially dialogue are such underutilized fields and there is a profound need for people to be able to come together across the divides and have conversations with one another, learn about each other, learn how to stop objectifying one another, and yet people don’t know how to do that and they don’t necessarily have the skills or the experience to be able to sit down with another person who is different from them in appearance, philosophy, belief.
Politics, all of those differences that we have and be able to have a constructive conversation where they’re simply sharing ideas. And I often say there is such a difference between dialogue and debate. And so often people don’t recognize that you can have dialogue with people who are different from you without debating whose way or whose belief is more right than the others.
And so what I really want people to know is that there are opportunities out there to come together to bridge divides, to learn about one another and to consciously co-create a better reality together. And that can be done with the help of an experienced and skilled facilitator or mediator.
Duncan Autrey: Perfect. So I want to kind of lift up two things out of that.
One is that, Okay, W right at the top. This is underutilized and it’s needed . We’ll just stick with that. And then but the part about, it’s possible to have a dialogue in the sense of understanding each other without needing to sort of win or prove something. Right? Like that doesn’t have to be, You can have difference of opinion without needing to actually need to resolve that you can still have differences and be in conversation.
And then I also hear that there’s like a co-creative capacity that comes out of this work, right? That, that we can now generate something together even across our differences.
Kathleen Oweegon: Absolutely. Because there is so much potential lost when we focus on our differences, rather on, rather than on what we have in common with one another.
And. The fact is that differences are no differences. We have to coexist in this world and we have to collaborate with one another to co-create better realities than the ones we have now. And if we’re focused on our differences, we’ve lost all that potential to co-create. So acknowledging our differences and celebrating the fact that different perspectives bring different insights, and with those different insights, we can create a more multifaceted, universally beneficial reality by celebrating the differences and seeing how can we work with those to create something even bigger and better than we can with only one frame of reference.
Duncan Autrey: And yeah, I heard someone say, you know, it’s like the more perspectives we have looking at something, the more clear of an image we have of it. It’s just like a better lens on whatever situation it is. Actually was in a workshop once, whereas person very elaborately had set up this table with like all these different things on it, and the people would describe what they saw on the table.
And of course when they’re sitting in two different sides there, we’re looking at, you know, totally different things and then they, you know, will create conflicts because like I’m seeing an orange and they’re like, I don’t know what you’re talking about. There’s no orange on the table. It was, was right.
It took a little more effort to build this thing, but it was, but the point was, is important, right? That, but when we’re looking at, you know, it’s like our different lived experiences or different perspectives or different things, like all of that information is important to have in the conversation.
Kathleen Oweegon: So true.
And I, I love that example that you gave. I might have to copy that for one of my meetings. That’s excellent.
Duncan Autrey: It’s, it’s good. I mean, I just, I love just. When I’m talking about work, just like being at a restaurant or something and just being like, I just wanna point out that we are having a totally different experience at this restaurant, right?
Like I’m looking at the entrance, I’m watching people come in, there’s people going to the bathroom, there’s someone over there by the register. You’re looking at, I don’t know, what are you looking at a painting, you know, some plants, you know, like a totally different experience and, and that’s of course just a concrete example, one thing I wanna ask you is share some examples of your work.
And I know that you’ve done some like community police work and I just imagine, for example, the police officer has a different perspective on what’s going on than the person who’s in the community. Interacting with the police officer, which is different than the politician, which is each of them have something to contribute to the conversation.
So, but absolutely. Yeah. Mm-hmm. , So do you have any example? Yeah, some examples of this?
Kathleen Oweegon: Well, sure. So I’ve done a couple of extended series of police community dialogues, and the first one was back in 2004. And that was between law enforcement officers, not just the police department, but also state police and sheriffs and activists in the city of Santa Fe.
And that particular dialogue was, Brought about actually as the result of a lawsuit. And the lawsuit happened as a result of an incident that happened in a city council meeting where an activist was being disruptive. And one of the council members asked the only police officer in this room packed with 400 angry people to remove this activist.
And in the process of removing her, there was the, often there’s what they call peaceful resistance where the officer was physically pulling her out and she was at first resisting. And then she did this tactic where you go, And when she went limp, he inadvertently was pulling her very hard at that moment, and he inadvertently pulled her head long into the doorframe and she got a concussion at the same time that that happened.
He, his back was seriously injured by the change in weight, so they were both injured. She sued the police department. Part of the settlement was that there would be a series of dialogues between the activist community and the police officers because. And this was back in 2004 mind you. But there was even then a concern about excessive use of force.
And at the same time, the concern on the police department’s side was things like, how do we prevent our officers from getting injured by activists, most of whom actually want to be arrested for the publicity, but they have to do their, their resistance part of that whole process because that gets you better publicity when it’s more dramatic and so forth.
So we had this series of dialogues and it was amazing because the very first one it was like a high school dance law enforcement lined up on one wall arms. They had to be in uniform. According to the, their unions, many of them would’ve preferred to have been in street clothes. So there wasn’t that barrier of I’m in uniform wearing weapons and you’re wearing everyday clothes.
And then on the other side of the room were lined up, were all of the activists. And there was no mingling, there was no conversation. And so we brought them together. We sat down, we had intentionally designed questions to first get at their values, looking for where were their shared values. And, and we had remarkable results.
And over the series of the six dialogues, we went from that high school dance kind of scenario to when people were showing up, arriving for the dialogue, they were hugging each other, officers were hugging the, the activists that we had had conversations with and. and vice versa. They were sharing personal stories.
And the outcome of the whole process was that we actually had a signed agreement where activists would actually schedule their arrests with the police department. They would say, I’m going to be standing on a street corner doing this thing, and I’m, I want to be arrested. And I, and the commitment on each part was that there would be no violence, that the the activist would not resist arrest and the officer would not exert any violence over them.
And so there was that understanding and it was very, very successful for many, many years. I don’t know if that agreement still holds because I don’t live there anymore. And the police chief that was there at the time moved to another city. So I’m hoping that that police chief that’s there currently has held that agreement.
But it was a beautiful thing. And I need to clarify too, that both of the dialogues series that I did between police officers and community, both had, for lack of a better word, a tangible kind of outcome from the one with the Santa Fe Police Depart or the the one in Santa Fe. We had the agreement about scheduled arrests and no violence with the dialogues that we did in the city of Albuquerque.
We had a series of agreed upon recommendations that were submitted to the mayor. Most dialogues, and this is important to clarify, most dialogues do not have defined tangible outcomes as part of their goal. Most dialogues are about building relationship and collaboration. Bridging the divides, helping people understand one another at deeper levels and have those shared insights that we were talking about a moment ago.
And so that’s an important clarification because it kind of eases the stress for people that I’m just gonna go in and have a conversation with another human being that’s different from me and that I don’t know anything about. And that’s really the goal, rather than the tangible results that came from these true police dialogues.
Very often there will be some kind of tangible results that comes out, but it’s not part of the planning and the agenda.
Duncan Autrey: Thank you for this story. That’s just, I really appreciate that. And, and, and it’s, I can just, it’s so vivid this, this moment of the, you know, the person going slack, like falling to the door, the, the injury and, and the middle school dance. I just like love this image. We all know this, this scene here. So I kind of wanna break down like what happens in this process, You know, how do we get here, right?
Because you started to hint at some of this, because the question is, you know, what we said at the beginning, right? Like, people don’t know that they can come together. They don’t know. They can come together and just have a conversation that they can be in dialogue. And so it seems like, you know, one obstacle is why would I wanna talk to this person?
Or I don’t know if I wanna go get into that conversation, or this is gonna be a mess. Cause they’re picturing the debate, they’re picturing the fight. So how do you get the people to come in the door and I. I know you said a little bit about letting them know that we don’t have to actually come in an agreement, we’re just gonna listen to each other.
But how do, in that design process, like how do you get from the invitation, you know, saying like, these people need to have this conversation to them actually engaging and wanting to be in this dialogue?
Kathleen Oweegon: Great question, Duncan. It is. It’s so important to be very, very mindful when designing these things.
And so the first thing that most important thing is to mindfully create a safe space. And so that means having the conversation in a neutral territory. That means ideally setting up the room so that people are sitting in some kind of a circle so that there aren’t sides, you know, the experience of sitting on two sides of the table.
Standing on two opposite sides of the room. So we create circles so that everyone is equal and we have facilitators to help manage the conversation. And we also have guidelines for safe and respectful communication. And those guidelines are things like speak and listen with respect. So we can learn from one another, be as concise as possible so everyone has an opportunity to share.
And one that I particularly like is seek clarification before making assumptions. And another one is seek solutions that meet everyone’s needs. So those are the kinds of guidelines that we have. And with all of. Once we have that design in place, then we carefully word the invitations. And in those invitations, we are letting people know what our intention is, what the goal for the process is, and that we will have trained, skilled facilitators there to help moderate the conversation.
We also let them know what the guidelines are going to be, and we also plan a series of questions that we will ask. Now, often dialogues take on a life of their own and they just go into a free flow conversation, and we let that be. But there always needs to be some kind of a question to kick off the conversation and maybe other questions to prompt people if the momentum starts to die down in the conversation.
And so we very carefully. Plan those questions and how they’re going to be worded. And we share those questions along with the guidelines and the description in advance with the participants. And then we also have a sort of a fold, a little pamphlet that everyone gets at during the dialogue to give them guidelines in writing to remember, to help them see the questions that might be asked of them.
And also, which include a little bit of, a little write up of about three or four paragraphs about dialogue versus debate. And we encourage people to have dialogue rather than debate. So all of these things set the tone that you are going to have a well planned, safe, mutually embracing, mutually collaborative experience.
And throughout the entire experience from the very, from the time they walk in the door and we greet them, we are setting that tone in every moment. And I can’t emphasize enough the importance of mindfully setting the right tone. And that happens through all of that planning and then all the way through the entire process.
Duncan Autrey: I thank you for that like thorough explanation and yeah, I find myself wanting to lift up that, that importance of that hosting or that being, that setting that tone it’s really easy to sort of, Wanted to end up just like reflecting that tension, you know, and to be like, Oh gosh, what’s gonna happen?
But really to let people know that you are welcome here. Hi, I see you, you know, and that over and over again. And and I appreciate just like all the thoughtfulness that goes not only to the physical space, but into the design, into the, you know, the guidelines and then making sure that people know about that ahead of time. And it’s the little paper is a really clever idea too. I think that’s nice to have cuz to have it there, right?
I mean, some people can put that on the wall or whatever, but just to have the thing where you can kind of on your own, just look and see like, what am I doing? What are the guidelines? We talked about crafting good questions. I’m curious, you know, what kind of tips you have about, you know, good question crafting.
Kathleen Oweegon: Well, first and foremost, they need to be what we call open-ended questions. So those are questions that require more than a yes or no for an answer. They have to be questions that can be answered by all of the different types of people that are in the room. And it’s always nice to start off with a question that will possibly reveal things that they have in common and set a positive tone.
So, for example, with the the Santa Fe dialogue between law enforcement and activists, the first question we asked is, What do you love about Santa? And right there we’re starting off with just a general, not charged at all kind of question that people can have kind of fun answering. And from the very beginning they’re going to find commonalities that people love the weather, they love the culture, they love the art, they love the diversity.
All of those things come out in those kinds of questions. So we always start off with just an easy question that everyone can relate to. And then I always like from there to start off with a question that can help us get down to our values and looking for those shared values. So in the police activist dialogue, we, the second question that we asked was, what inspires you to take the role that you take in our community.
and that one was more magical than we ever imagined it would be because what we heard, and we, we would have, we’d have to, to clarify, we would have everyone seated in a circle and there would be a, an equal disbursement to the best of our ability between law enforcement and activists. And they would be, you know, scattered in the circle so that they weren’t all clumped together, Like they started out against the wall.
And then when we went around and we asked that question, you know, we hear from a law enforcement officer that he takes his role because he wants to have somebody, He wants to be that person who will speak up for the little guy. And then, and then another officer said that, that she wanted to make her community a safe, warm, and welcoming place.
And so forth and so on, these kinds of answers. And lo and behold, we were getting exactly the same kinds of answers from the activists, and we could see the amazement on, on the participants’ faces as a law enforcement officer and an activist were giving the exact same reasons why they were taking their role in the community roles of that up until that moment they saw as being opposing roles.
And now all of a sudden they recognize that though the roles were different and they were approaching them, the, their, their role and their intention differently, the outcome that they were looking for, their reason for being in that role was the same. And that was a profound bridge builder. So we designed questions that help people look for.
What they have in common. And even when we find differences, we can ask deeper questions to look at how, even though those answers are different from one another, there is some kind of an intersection or there’s an experience of, oh, that’s a different side of the same coin, or a different wall of the same building as it were.
Duncan Autrey: I love this and, and it makes me think right at the very top, you mentioned that we have to stop having people being objectifying each other, right? That this is just like, and that with these questions, you’re revealing the subjective humanity of folks, right? That there’s a way that instead of it just being a police officer in a uniform with a weapon who has, you know, who’s oppressing us, that it’s.
Instead. Oh wow. This is a person who has kids, who has a family who loves, you know, Santa Fe for these reasons and, and they enjoy watching sunsets or whatever. You know, all of a sudden this person fleshes out as an individual and vice versa. You know? Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. and vice versa. I mean, and like, I think activists forget that they also are scary to police officers.
Unpredictable, you know?
Kathleen Oweegon: Exactly. And that’s a great point that you bring up because one of the questions that we asked is, what helps you feel safe? What causes you to feel unsafe? And one that was really a revelation kind of experience for people was how do you define violence? And what was really interesting about that question is that some of the things that activists did, such as what they considered to be passive resistance, was actually experienced by the officers as violence because very often they would get injured in some way during a passive resistance moment, just like what happened in those city council chambers that I was telling you about.
And so, and, and also that police officers didn’t recognize that how they even approach a citizen can be interpreted as such a frightening experience that it can feel emotionally like a form of violence when somebody walks up to you with an authoritative stance and their hand on their pistol and so forth.
And when the activists brought that up, They were talking about the, the fear and the, the, the emotional violence they experience when they’re approached by someone in authority with a, with their hand on their gun. And at that moment, one of the officers interjected. And, and we don’t always allow a lot of interjection and crosstalk because we wanna let people have their space.
And he didn’t interrupt, but as soon as she was finished that finished that sentence, he said, Excuse me. I just, I need to let you know that the reason that most of us have our hand on our gun is because we’re afraid. We don’t know what the person in the car that we’re approaching is going to. And of course we have learned many times about officers being killed as, even as they approach a car when they’re pulling someone over.
Now we, he said, We don’t know what to expect from you. And so this is an action of fear and self protection. It’s not a threat. And that was a whole new reframe for everyone. And, and it, it helped people be able to see one another as human beings. Cuz, cuz people don’t often understand that law enforcement officers live a life of fear because of their job and the nature of the kinds of people that they sometimes encounter.
And so it was a, a very revealing conversation and it really helped them not objectify each other anymore. Right.
Duncan Autrey: Yeah. I think it’s easy to forget that like this job It’s one of the few jobs that actually expects you to put your life on the line for various things, right? Mm-hmm. almost any other job, you know, safety first and whatever.
I was thinking about, people were angry about the Uvalde, Texas, you know, where the, the police officers arrived at the scene with the shooter at the school and, and, and they didn’t go in as quickly as they could have. And, and, you know, there’s actually a job. It’s actually their job to go and put their life on the line for these other people, right?
And that is just so inherently scary and it’s such an inherently it’s just a apparently profound sacrifice that someone is making, right? Like, I’m willing to, to every day go do something. And if I find myself in a situation where there’s a citizen in danger and something that needs to happen, I’m gonna put my life in danger to deal with this situation and that, and that’s intense, you know, and gosh, this actually reminds me, there’s another story.
There was a, a video that went like super viral of this police officer goes to, arrives at this pool party, kids having the pool party and they’re making too much noise. The police came, someone runs away, the police officer very tackles this young teenager, very inappropriately as a per, you know, a white officer and you know, a black teenager.
And and someone told me, and I went and looked this up, it’s real. That that guy had just come from a situation where there was this someone where they trying to talk someone out of suicide and he watched someone kill themself in front of their children and then got called to this pool situation.
Some kid is like not playing, is messing around and. Gonna feel it right now, you know? And it’s like, and he angry and you know, and it’s like, holy cow, what are, We do like the, like the humanity that, you know, we’re asking people, you know, just. .
Kathleen Oweegon: Yeah. The constant adrenaline state that law enforcement officers have to maintain to protect the citizens and to protect themselves and to deal with sometimes with people who are extraordinarily and unpredictably dangerous.
And that’s a difficult thing on the physiology and the psychology to have to be in these high adrenaline states a lot. And then to have the ability to shift out of that high adrenaline state into a different state for a different situation. When you come from, you know, dealing with a violent situation and now you’re back on patrol and you’re pulling someone over in a car, you know it, it doesn’t require that same level of adrenaline, but your body doesn’t know that, and not everyone has the ability to regulate their fight and flight response.
And so, Yes. It’s a very difficult reality that they face and that a lot of people don’t understand. And that’s not to in any way exonerate those officers who have made serious misjudgments and caused lives, cost lives, and, and used excessive use of force and all of that. And yet they are a very small minority, and it’s important to remember and recognize the reality that they deal with.
We objectify one another as human beings all the time. Mm-hmm. , and we, we forget that we do that to one another. And we have to remember that we have a shared humanity and our peace and our survival as a species, and our evolution as a species is based on recognizing, celebrating and embracing that shared humanity and forgiving one another for the foibles.
Happens sometimes because we are flawed beings. We humans. Yeah.
Duncan Autrey: It’s, yeah, we’re just humans trying to figure things out all with our own stories and and it’s nice shorthand to, you know, organize people into their categories, you know, that this person, that person and, and so in this process, so you have, these folks are asking, you’re, you’ve set the container, you’ve had asking these profound questions that are, you know, going from kind of easier to, to more value based to a little spic and you’re revealing this experience.
So now you’ve kind of like opened up this whole package here and you said that, you know, the outcome could be okay, maybe we actually come up with some agreement or, or not, but kind of. What happens now that we’ve, now that you’ve created this space, cause you, like in this case you were at six different sessions, right?
So people have come, they’ve had a whole bunch of conversations. You know, how do you land the plane? You know, how, how do we know like, okay, we’re done. We’ve all said everything we need to say, You know, what is, Tell me about the different kind of outcomes that can come out of
Kathleen Oweegon: this process. Well, in the kinds of facilitated dialogues that I’ve done very often landing the plane is simply thanking everyone and encouraging them to take what they’ve learned in these conversations and apply it in their lives and, and, and to see one another in these new.
Expanded ways that they’ve come to see one another in the dialogue, to see everyone out there in the world in those expanded ways. And we invite and encourage them to be inquiring. And, and as you have, as you have said often, you know, be curious. And so we invite people to take this energy that’s been created and take that out into the world and, and, and approach one another from that place.
And part of that is, is a mindful action of modeling for others how to be, because we as human beings will consciously or unconsciously imitate one another so we can mindfully model how to be. And so we often invite people to do that. So often there isn’t. You know that, that tangible outcome, but just that take what you’ve experienced out into the world and let that help you change the nature of your relationships and dynamics with your community members.
So often it’s simply that other times we, when we have, like when we had the dialogue with the, through the city of Albuquerque, that was 20 in that series, and we chose that number because of that, those were dialogues with various stakeholders in the community, and we wanted to have an opportunity to have the dialogues in different parts of the community to be most convenient for the various stakeholders.
We wanted to get as large as sampling of, of the experience as possible, and as. Recommendations from different stakeholders as possible to to work from, to come up with the final list of recommendations that was formerly presented to the mayor, et cetera. And so for that, we after the series of dialogues, we asked for volunteer participants to help work on the wording of the recommendations and the selection of the top 10 recommendations that we heard most often from the participants to take forward to the mayor.
And so so the follow up then was looking for those volunteers, then having another series of meetings that weren’t so dialogic as they were. Product focused to come up with those recommendations. For the rest of the participants who weren’t part of that focus group, we said a similar thing is what I’ve just described to you.
You know, take these understandings, go out in the world and build stronger relationships and learn to see people in more expensive embracing ways. Very often the kinds of dialogues that community members do without, with, or without facilitation very often those are those, the landing, as you put it from those, is that people on of their own accord will.
Come up with collaborations to carry the work forward and so forth. So that all is part of how we close those dialogues is, is sometimes we do around and say, What action would you like to take as a human being based on what you’ve experienced in this group? And so we sometimes do a call to action, but the choice of the option or even the possibility of what the action might be comes from them and not us.
And so those are usually how we close those kinds of dialogues.
Duncan Autrey: Excellent. Right. That’s a great closing question, right? Like, well, what have you learned from here that you’re gonna take into the world? What kind of, how are you gonna change? So again, at the top you mentioned that these are things we need in this world, and I totally agree.
And As our divisiveness and, and objectification of each other is happening more and more in our, in our political culture lately. And and so, you know, and I also know that, so you have your life wisdom, but you also have your own podcast about co-creating peace. You’re talking to a bunch of great people who are thinking about this.
So from your experience and from all these different perspectives you’ve heard, what are the things that you are observing in our culture, in our political culture, in our democracy that, like, what are the things that you’re really paying attention to, things that are concerning to you or things that have giving you hope, but what are you, what are you looking at?
What’s your, how are you seeing our, you know, political landscape from your
Kathleen Oweegon: perspective these days? Hmm. Honestly, I find it heartbreaking. I feel, I fear, I feel tears welling up in my eyes right this minute as I think about it, because the divisiveness, the objectification of one another has become so extreme.
We are so polarized and there have been loud and powerful voices that seem to be feeding that divisiveness and, and modeling objectification of other human beings and, and the polarization is, is frightening to me and, and tragic to me in what’s happening right now. At the same time, I’m also feeling this, this upswell.
Of people who are feeling as I do that this is such a tragic and traumatic time that something needs to happen to shift this. And more and more people are stepping forward and saying, Hey, I wanna understand you as a being, and I want to encourage other people to stop the polarization, to find ways to unify with one another.
That’s my license plate by the way. I had my, my license plate says unify just my subtle little message. But, but there are, there’s an upswell of people who, who want. That harmony, who want that collaboration and who want to shift things. And so that gives me hope. I’m concerned that it is still a very small percentage of humanity and that we live in a pla.
We live in a time that is so frightening that we have that tendency to go into a very hyper defensive mode. And sometimes our form of defense is to take an offensive approach as a way of protecting ourselves, of separating ourselves for what we believe to be our own safety. And so I fear because times are so hard right now and so scary right now that so many people are coming from a place of fear rather than the place of their heart.
And so, I am hoping and inviting everyone who’s listening here to hold that hope with me, that we can achieve that shared humanity once again. And we can recognize that yes, these are scary times, but that doesn’t mean that we have to protect ourselves by hurting other people or by separating ourselves from other people.
Conversely, if we, the more we collaborate, the more we share resources, the less scarier life becomes. And so therein life’s part of my hope as well. Hmm.
Duncan Autrey: Yeah. I, that will echo your experience of feeling frustrated and, and you know, and then that concern and then seeing the hope that the up swelling and, and there’s a lot of people out there.
Either one who are offering paths to peace or to, you know, bridging and creating collaborative spaces. But there’s also a lot of people that are looking for that. Now I can feel that more and more people are saying, Okay, hold on. This is that we can’t keep doing this. You know, and this is right.
Right. And, and when you mentioned just like how sometimes when people are afraid and there’s a lot of frightening things happening that people will go to offense, it makes me think about the police officer putting their hand on the gun, Right. That like, and that, and in a certain way, so many of us are doing that and it’s like, Uhoh, I’m in this situation and just kind of reaching for whatever your weapon is, you know, and I’m ready to fight.
Yeah. And I’m not using it, you know, right now, but. Just gimme a couple seconds and we’re, you know, and we can turn this, you know, and, and you know, there’s a lot of wisdom on there about like, the choice between fear and love. You know, it’s, I got five MIC actions are guided by fear. We’re gonna get certain outcomes if my actions are guided by love or as you say heart we’re gonna get different outcomes.
And, and so, you know, I hear like kind of painting this picture of like this world where we can be, you know, collaborating, we can be being finding common humanity, recognizing that we’re all bound up and it, and it, as we collaborate more or have more experiences of interacting across differences, that that can actually create shifts.
Probably, I mean, more than we can probably imagine. And what, what kind of things do you think need to happen for us to get there to, to, I don’t know. I can imagine that we need to raise more awareness, this is possible or create more of these experiences. But what, like where do you see like as places where we can make changes that can sort of move us in this direction and like, who would need to be involved in that?
Kathleen Oweegon: Hmm. So I see that as happening at multiple levels. So one thing I wanna add on to my previous answer is that part of what gives me hope, and this ties into your current question, part of what gives me hope is that there are people out there like, Who have created the Omni Win project and are are putting it out there, you know, as loud and clear as you possibly can, being that resource.
And that’s similar to what I’m doing with my company, Bridges of Peace and also my podcast co-creating peace. So that gives me a great deal of hope because there’s a lot of people coming forward now like you and I, who are mindfully consciously creating resources and places for people to learn new ways of being and to share new ideas.
So to answer your current question, I see this effort to shift the current paradigm happening at at multiple levels, but there’s the most distinct ones being. The kind of work that you and I are doing, and so many others where we’re creating these podcasts, we’re putting ourselves out there, we’re teaching other people skills to be able to co-create peace.
And so there’s, there’s that level where individuals are working with groups or doing outreach. It’s in a somewhat, let’s say, professional way versus the other aspect, I shouldn’t say versus, but in conjunction rather with the other direction. I see. Which is where human beings, individuals just change their own mindset little by little, whether it is by reading about people who are different than they having conversations, maybe even intentionally looking for people who are different from them to have conversations with as an individual.
And, and learning the skills with which to have those conversations and having that kind of outreach. And then sort of in between those two approaches, there are opportunities. One of them is called Living Room Conversations, and that’s an organization that I’m actually going to be interviewing on my podcast in, in the, the next couple of weeks where there are con, there are programs like living Room Conversations who have predesigned dialogues with predesigned questions that they offer to people out there in the community.
People who may not be trained professionals like you and I but who want to convene small, informal gatherings of other people to talk about. Issues of the day, what we have, what, how we are different, and how we have what we have in common. The same kinds of things that you and I have been talking about in this conversation, but people who may not be a trained mediator or a facilitator, but just wanna host a little, gathering, a little conversation to unify their neighborhood perhaps, or their church or their club group of friends, that kind of thing.
And so that’s another thing that people can do is, is host conversations in your home or in the clubhouse in your apartment, or you know, some place where people can just gather and learn about the humanity that we share. And so those are the, the, if you wanna say, calls to action that I would propose to our audience is to.
Seek professionals who are doing what you and I do, Duncan and who can offer skills and support in the form of facilitation and mediation and so forth. And as individuals go out there in the world and experiment with learning about people and creating new relationships, and then possibly hosting a conversation in your home.
Duncan Autrey: Hmm. Wow. I, I love that’s so, it’s so concrete and clear and and one I’ll just name, there’s also Braver Angels is another organization, is doing good work around this, About that one. Yeah, exactly. Great. And and also living room conversations. They also have a pretty cool online platform for doing these kinds of dialogues too.
One of the things an ind an individual can do, and that is I think is really straightforward, is that, you know, go and learn about other people’s perspectives. It’s really interesting. Just expose yourself to other kinds of media and so forth.
And sometimes that by yourself is, you know, can be helpful, but you have to really, actually engage with it and be interested and curious, you know, and otherwise it’ll just prove whatever you wanted it to prove. But that the real bridging happens when actual human connection happens. And, and, and, you know, so finding people who are of a, you know, different, you know, perspective than you or in a different approach where people you know, you might even really disagree with and actually go have coffee with them.
Go for a walk with them. Go do something with them. Don’t talk about the issue first. , right? Like as you were talking about right? With these questions, you know, like first of what do you love about Santa Fe? Or you know, like, tell me about your children or, you know whatever the, you, when we can connect and find each other’s humanity, that that’s a hugely important thing that individuals can be doing.
And yeah. And then I love that you know your point, that there’s easy access ways to be doing these kinds of conversations as well. That you don’t have to get the full professional that comes in and does the whole dialogue for you, and you don’t have to go do this alone. That there are places where you can have these conversations just.
With some structure and some boundary and container,
Kathleen Oweegon: um mm-hmm. . Yeah. Although, I would say that if, if a person wants to have dialogue and they’re, they’re sensing that there’s a lot of volatility, then it is often really helpful to bring in a facilitator or mediator to help moderate, at least the first couple of group conversations until people can get more comfortable with one another.
And so, you know, so it’s sort of a judgment call. And of course people can contact me and tell me about the kind of conversation they’re thinking about having, and I’m happy to give my thoughts about whether or not that’s something that a facilitator would be most useful for. Again, depending on the volatility of the people or the topic involved.
The other thing I wanna say, and this was. Really a difficult thing for me to do myself. It took a great deal of courage for me to do, and yet it was breakthrough for me. First of all, I’m, I’m an introvert by nature, so I generally don’t approach strangers on the streets anyway, but I saw this man on the streets of Albuquerque downtown who had tattoos all over his face.
He had piercings all over his face, and at first look at him, I was repulsed. I found his as aesthetic repugnant, and I immediately recognized that that was sort of my lower self responding. That wasn’t the human in me, the, the spiritual being in a human body that rec could recognize another spiritual being in a human body, even though it was a very diverse, shall we say, aesthetic.
And so I decided that I was going to talk to him and I was going to learn about him. So I was approaching a stranger on the street, someone who I found repugnant. And I used one of the tools that I recommend our audience use as well, in that one of the best icebreakers that you can use is acknowledging something about the other person in a positive way, whatever it might be.
And of course, his aesthetic was very distinct. And so I said, I said, Wow, you have such a creative look. I have never seen a look like yours before. And I said it with enthusiasm and a smile, not condemning him for his unique aesthetic. And then I, then I asked him a question, an open question. I said, What inspired you to create the look that you have?
and he started telling me his story. He told me about what the images that he had tattooed on his face meant to him, what he was trying to, that he was trying to express his interior being on his exterior. And that for that it was very, that was very important to him. And then the piercings, he told me and makes me wanna cry, he said that, that there is so much pain in the world that we don’t choose.
And that he decided that he was going to choose his pain and that those piercings were a represent, a representation of, of him choosing what his pain would be and therefore, in his mind, that also was translating to choosing what his pain would not be. And that was, you know, he just explained that that was his way of thinking and that’s what he was doing when he did all those piercings.
And, and it was an amazing conversation. And I could have walked away without ever saying a word to him and just thought, Oh, what a look. Yuck. You know? But I got to learn about what, what he, why he created that look and what it meant to him. And by the time we walked away, the truth that I saw him as a beautiful being.
And so that’s what I invite people to do, is to have that courage and find out what’s below the surface. And in there somewhere you were going to find a beautiful being.
Duncan Autrey: Wow. Thank you for that story. I find it really moving Wow.
Yeah, there’s something, and I just wanna, I don’t know, in this sort of closing here, I just we look at this big world and mean, there’s all those things going on. It’s scary, it’s frightening. There’s all sorts of challenging issues to, we need to be collaborating around. And,
and it, it’s easy to have that be like another thing that’s just like a someone else. It’s like someone else’s problem. But that we are, as in each of us are, are the people who are co-creating this world right now. Like it’s our individual choices that are making this difference, right? And so whether that’s like the individual choice to.
Bridge with one other human, you know? Or to actively try to engage with a whole nother political side or another political perspective, or to host a conversation or to ask your city or your, or to engage with a facilitator or someone who can actually bring in a professional who has the, like, the skills to really hold something that’s really hard and, and complex and help you understand it and come up with recommendations or ideas about how to move forward that are different.
Each of those is an individual choice that a person has to make. And, and also all of our problems are also just individual choices. The choices we like and the choices we don’t like are all being made by individuals, you know? And that this whole big, you know, system and culture, which we can also objectify as something that’s really scary, is actually made up of us. And you know, it’s, it’s a strange paradox to be small and to be also the only significant unit in the system,
Kathleen Oweegon: Right. Yeah. So true. True. Yes. And I think that, you know, what’s, what’s most important for each and every one of us is to just reach. To another human being and connect with them at some level deeper than the surface. And if everybody were to do that and to not, not be offended by people who are different than we are and not feel insecure or threatened by people who are different than we are, that just connect with every, with individuals in every moment, from the cashier in the grocery store, to the person standing in line with us someplace to that strange looking person on the street corner.
The more that we do that as a way of being, the more we’ll be able to intertwine our souls. And since we’re all just spiritual beings in a human body, living a very bizarre human journey here, you know what better way to grow than to connect with other people at that level?
Duncan Autrey: Hmm.
So, yes, you know, and I, there’s a piece in what you were in your story that like, that shift can just really be as simple as, Oh, I don’t like this person. I’m afraid of this person. Any of those feelings to be like, Oh, that is incoherent with, you know, what you just said, that this is a, probably a human being with their own spiritual experience and having their own you know, being a, the, you know, consciousness and body on planet earth, trying to figure things out.
If I think that they’re scary, I probably should learn something more. Like, each person has that ground of human goodness in them,
Kathleen Oweegon: and they do. They do.
Duncan Autrey: And I also wanna highlight that that you’re someone who’s available to people to reach out to and contact if they want to explore some of these questions or these ideas and, and that, and that you have a very practical podcast out there that’s like, so great.
Each of your episodes have, you know, concrete things that people can be doing as well. So I just really wanna lift up some of the work you’re doing and encourage people to go check it out.
Kathleen Oweegon: Thank you. Yes. I really appreciate that. And among the things that I can do for people is I can, I can simply listen to them and share ideas with them and let them know my thoughts on an idea that they might have in terms of relating to another person.
I also teach interpersonal communication skills. So if a person is feeling as though I just don’t know how to talk to somebody, yeah, I wanna do what you’re saying, but I don’t know how to do that. And every time I have a conversation that goes wrong, those kinds of things, I can also help with some communication, coaching and, and so forth to help them develop the skills to be better able to interact.
But I’m really, my mission is to be of service. And so when people reach out to me, they’re helping me fulfill my mission. So I always invite people to and encourage people to reach out to me, and I’m happy to be of service to them. Wow. Thank you. You’re welcome and thank you for having me on, Duncan, it’s been so great to have this conversation with you.
Duncan Autrey: it’s a real, it’s a real pleasure and it’s real great. Thank you.
About this episode’s guest
Kathleen is an educator, facilitator, mediator, communication coach, and the founder of Bridges of Peace, providing these services throughout the U.S. and around the world. She hosts the weekly podcast, “Co-creating Peace”, which focuses on conscious communication and conflict transformation.
Bridges of Peace
Kathleen offers a free 30-minute communication coaching or conflict resolution coaching session to anyone who would like to talk about their communication or conflict concerns with me on my podcast, Co-creating Peace. If they wish, they may be anonymous to protect their privacy.
Kathleen also provides many personal and professional development classes, which include mindfulness, leadership, interpersonal communication, and conflict resolution. More information on these classes and others can be found on her website: www.bridgesofpeace.com.
Podcast – Co-Creating Peace
Co-Creating Peace is a weekly podcast about Conscious Communication & Conflict Transformation, which she defines as follows:
Conscious communication: Being mindful before we speak, of what our goal is for the outcome of each communication we embark on – especially in situations that are important to us, or to others – and thoughtfully choosing the words, timing and delivery to best accomplish that goal.
Conflict transformation – is first and foremost seeing conflict as an opportunity – and opportunity to grow, to learn, and to co-create a better reality for everyone involved and affected by the conflict. It is mindfully working with a conflict situation with the intention to collaborate to co-create an outcome that benefits all involved, and is to the highest good of all concerned. It is about transcending ideas of who’s right and who’s wrong, or blame and shame, and instead simply identifying what’s not working, then exploring and negotiating creative options for new dynamics that will better meet the needs of those involved and affected.
Listen to Duncan’s episode (as a guest) on Co-Creating Peace here:
Topics Discussed in Episode
In our conversation, Kathleen talks about how individual transformation happens through direct connection with others. Here are some organizations that offer opportunities for real dialogue and connection across political differences.
Braver Angels is America’s largest organization bringing conservatives and progressives together on equal terms to understand our differences, find common ground where it exists, and help the country we all love find a better way.
Founded in 1989, Essential Partners helps people build relationships across differences to address their communities’ most pressing challenges.
LivingRoom Conversations connects people across divides – politics, age, gender, race, nationality, and more – through guided conversations proven to build understanding and transform communities.
Unify America creates interactive experiences to help people bust out of their bubbles, build civic muscles, and work together to tackle our country’s biggest challenges.
Police Misconduct, Duty and Humanity
In our conversation, I talk about police overreacting (McKinney, TX) and underreacting (Uvalde, TX). While the idea behind my comments is interesting, I also misspoke.
1) The police officer at the pool party didn’t see someone commit suicide in front of their children before the pool party incident. Instead, he arrived at a scene where a man had already shot himself in front of his children and then helped talked a teenager out of committing suicide.
2) Police are not obligated to risk their lives to protect citizens. Instead, when they do so it’s because they are choosing to do so.
About The Omni-Win Project
The Omni-Win Project is a multimedia effort to raise awareness of the myriad existing and emergent opportunities to improve our democracy and heal our political culture.
Our mission: facilitating the healing and evolution of our democratic systems and political culture, so that we can co-create a future that works for everyone.
Meet The Host
I am omnipartial: I am biased in favor of the success of everyone and the whole. I believe it is possible to improve systems of communication and interaction in ways that will allow humanity to thrive and evolve through our complexity and diversity.
My purpose in life is to support an omnipartial revolution. How? By helping the world understand the fractal nature of conflict and how we can transform conflict into a positive and inspiring experience. We are all in this together. I firmly believe we can do this complex dance through life with much more grace and beauty.
I am specifically committed to transforming how we work together in teams and organizations and how we experience conflict and collaboration in our democracy.
Fans of the Omni-Win project podcast will enjoy this collection of episodes: https://www.fractalfriends.us/transforming-politics about Transforming Politics and Healing Democracy