Following an evening of Courageous Conversations, the audience’s key takeaway was the power of listening. Though it sounds simple…it’s anything but. These days, we’ve stopped hearing each other. We talk over one another. We prepare our responses while people are speaking. We don’t even consider listening. It’s the new normal. And it’s contagious.
Former white supremacist, Arno Michaelis and former Muslim supremacist Mubin Shaikh, shared powerful stories of how civil conversations helped pull them out of extremism – conversations we should all be aspiring to have. And Kiran Thadhani described why dialogue works.
Arno shared that everything he did during his extremist days was designed to cultivate hostility. He deliberately provoked people, and he wanted (and expected) people to react with hostility and even aggression. But when random people treated him with kindness—like a woman behind a counter at McDonald’s—he was rendered powerless.
Mubin discussed how 9/11 disoriented his radical beliefs. And how he went to Syria to deeply study and debate the Qur’an with a Sufi master. Mubin recalls how the Sufi master’s demeanor and approach had the greatest impact on him. He was nice, always very loving, smiling and happy. Through this engagement, Mubin “pulled a 180 and became an adversary of his old extremist self.”
Panelist Kiran Thadhani, from Seeds of Peace, rounded out the discussion by sharing how dialogue helps create change. It’s not a method for winning an argument, but rather one that helps build a foundation for answering today’s burning question, how do we all exist here together?
Together, we unpacked the power of kindness and courage, and how Courageous Conversations, even when we differ and they are uncomfortable, present an opportunity for interrupting extremism and division.
I invite you to watch and then share the evening’s footage, and then consider holding a Courageous Conversation of your own.