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  • Writer's pictureFletcher Consulting

Why Was This Conversation Different From All Other Conversations?

Why was this conversation different than all other conversations?

I have been anxious about talking about the war in Israel and Gaza with friends. But last week I had a conversation where I didn’t feel anxious or nervous at all.


Four friends I’ve known for almost 20 years got together to celebrate some spring birthdays. Tricia, Comma, Laurie, Jane and I met doing DEI work. We’ve seen each other on and off, but not all together for a while.


We walked around an arboretum, catching up on our lives and different topics we all cared about. When we got to dinner we started talking about Israel/Gaza. 


Two of my friends are Jewish. They both said they were feeling a lot of anxiety about marking Passover this year, for a number of reasons.


They expressed concern for the suffering of the Palestinian people and how they might incorporate this into their Seders.

 

We shared more deeply, exchanging our perspectives on the world since October 7. At one point, I remember Laurie saying, “Jane, I disagree,” and she went on to explain why. 


And Jane nodded in understanding. Not necessarily persuaded, but not escalating into a shouting match. 


Driving home, I felt like my cup had been filled. It’s always wonderful to spend time with people you care about. 


But what struck me most was that I hadn’t been anxious at all. We were willing to listen and yield to those with more knowledge and experience, even though we don’t agree on everything. 


This is a skill we try to build in our workshops—how to have difficult conversations across differences, on polarizing issues. So I was keen to understand: what had allowed us this safety with each other?


We have been friends and colleagues for a long time. Time has allowed our relationships to develop. The trust and respect that we have for each other provided a necessary foundation. 


It’s also true that the five of us care deeply about creating inclusive spaces in which everyone can thrive; we’ve even chosen that as our career. 


At the risk of sounding sappy, I wish we could package what we had last week and share it. We can teach the skills, but what about the foundation of trust and respect? The willingness to listen? Is that teachable?


Of course the tensions are higher for those who are living in the midst of the conflict. But shouldn’t we be able to engage in civil discourse here in the U.S., where we are not at war? Instead we are seeing an increase in Islamophobia and antisemitism in the U.S. 


We should be able to express our views, through conversation or peaceful demonstrations, without resorting to hate speech or physical confrontation.


Personally, I am ready for some Moses-level miracles: the return of the hostages, an end to the conflict, and an equitable solution for the people of Israel and Palestine. 

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