The Psychology of Social Change
10:55 AM on Jun. 26, 2010

I’ve been thinking a lot about (and recently published a book about) the individual psychological factors involved in co-creating a better future. It seems that constructive dialogue about complex issues has become more difficult in our increasingly polarized nation. It is not uncommon for people to find themselves in an uncomfortable situation where they feel compelled to express, what seem to them, valid concerns about where our civilization is headed, only to discover that the people they are talking with strongly disagree. Oops!

I wrote Communicating Across the Divides In Our Everyday Lives as a sort of psychological field manual – a book one can turn to before and during visits with family and friends whose views differ sharply – in order to help promote closeness, understanding and authentic engagement between people who truly care about each other. It’s a travel companion for those who are venturing into challenging circumstances.

In this book, I attempted to explain how underlying personality factors, differing worldviews, and the inescapable anxieties of life (three different levels of observation/experience) too often result in unsatisfying and unproductive communications with those we truly care about. The goal is to establish a basis for empathy, understanding and progress in bridging those everyday divides.

I approached the subject from four angles: 1) the reasons why it is important that we learn to communicate more effectively with each other across these divides; 2) three things we need to understand and remember about each other (and ourselves) as human beings, that can otherwise get in the way of satisfying connections; 3) specific techniques to promote constructive dialogue across the divides in our everyday lives, and; 4) some narrative examples of how these techniques might actually be used in difficult situations.

As a psychologist, organic farmer and social change activist, I pulled together years of research and observations about the trajectory of humanity, with a focus on moving beyond the growing polarization that dominates so much of our current public discourse.

Feedback received thus far indicates that the book offers a welcome fresh perspective which invites self-reflection, personal growth and global citizenship within the context of an emerging culture of hope and cooperation – the result of co-creation by conscious choice and constructive dialogue.

I don’t consider myself to be the expert in these matters. I’m just beginning to notice how these particular pieces of the puzzle might fit together and might be addressed. I haven’t yet identified, let alone tested with any scientific methodology, all of the do’s and don’ts for communicating effectively with every character type and worldview. Hopefully what I’ve done here will serve as a first step in that direction.

I welcome the responses, observations, challenges and refinements of others in thinking about this potentially important aspect of collective life.

Please feel free to contact me, Don Schneider, by email at [email protected]

Here’s a link to more info about the structure, content and process:

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