RevolutionZ

Ep 264 Ruminations On Communications with Alexandria Shaner

January 14, 2024 Michael Albert Season 1 Episode 265
RevolutionZ
Ep 264 Ruminations On Communications with Alexandria Shaner
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Episode 264 of RevolutionZ with frequent guest Alexandria Shaner discusses the role of and especially methods for effective  communication for social change. What is at stake? What works well and what doesn't when organizing, especially when there are serious divisions? 

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Speaker 1:

Hello, my name is Michael Albert and I am the host of the podcast titled Revolution Z. This is our 264th consecutive episode and our return frequent guest to continue Revolution Z's spontaneous rumination sequence is Alexandria Schaehner. This episode, if all works well, will appear this coming Sunday as our usual audio podcast on the various podcast platforms, but it will also appear as a video on Patreon and on Znet's YouTube page. All of that will be linked from Znetworkorg and we have a Discord channel where you can put comments and criticisms or ask Alexandria and anything about what we've had to say, and or engage with each other about such matters, and that option is also linked from Znetworkorg. So now, welcome, alexandria, and do you want to kick off this exchange?

Speaker 2:

Thank you for having me back on, michael.

Speaker 2:

I guess it is my turn to suggest some topics for ruminating.

Speaker 2:

As I was telling you earlier, I've had a very interesting week and I'm feeling a little bit flat in the brain, so I didn't have anything really on the top of my mind as far as reactions to something specific, a current event that I just had to talk about with you today.

Speaker 2:

But if I had to pick something that's definitely been floating around my brain and I would assume for a lot of other people too, since various people have mentioned this to me recently is that perhaps we could talk about communication styles and tactics and even purposes, because there's a phenomenon that is not new, but it's definitely highly present right now where you can tend to feel like you're just part of a camp screaming out your position and no one can hear you and there's not a lot of dialogue that's constructive back and forth, and this causes a lot of problems in our society. But also it can be a lot more personal. For example, we just had a holiday season and a lot of people maybe had conversations with their family and realized like wow, we live in different worlds. This can happen with co-workers, friends, I mean, I think it's something that comes up for everybody in some way, and certainly has for me a lot lately. So yeah, that was my proposal of what we could ruminate about today.

Speaker 1:

It's actually a big topic, but I do think it's of paramount importance. I mean, if we're going to get any place, then we have to reach people we being the left and so the way you try to reach people is absolutely fundamental. So that seems clear enough. I do think that the tactics of talking to people and the style of talking to people comes after the purpose of talking to people. So you know, look, if the purpose is to entertain, that's one thing, nothing wrong with that, but that's one thing. If the purpose is to get some small sector of people to realize that you're on their side and to applaud that you agree with them, that's another possibility.

Speaker 1:

But if the purpose is to reach out to people or to take an audience, that's already quite radical. But to say something to them which is challenging and which you hope will have an impact, as compared to just parroting what they say and being liked for that reason. Right, all of that makes a big difference. Is it the case as I think some people don't like that, I think this and get mad at me for thinking it that the left is often I mean, we talk about the left talking to itself. Sometimes I even wonder if we're talking to ourselves because we're so obscure and so inclined to say things in ways that I don't know, appear intelligent, appear learned, but don't communicate.

Speaker 1:

So I don't know. How do you do better? Is the big question right? Here's one way to ask that question. I think who on the left practices anything, as in, for example, if you're on a sports team, an athletic team, you practice what you're doing, you try to get better at what you're doing, you want your coach or your fellow players to tell you what needs work and then you want to put in that work. Does anybody on the left do anything remotely like that?

Speaker 2:

I think that there are spaces and organizations and groups that try to practice what we preach in various ways prefiguring but I think, yeah, what maybe you're talking about is more of the skills needed to do the work that we do in a way that, hopefully, we're not training ourselves to be expert manipulators we're still trying to actually authentically reach people. But that's what I understood you were getting at is that we need to do more skill building. Yeah, but how many times does somebody on the left who's going to give a talk.

Speaker 1:

Invite people to hear the talk, not for the big audience, but for the big audience, but for that small group. Get feedback and do better, and it isn't just the speaker. How many people would give any time to hearing somebody practice a talk and helping them get it better? I mean, maybe this goes on and I'm just ignorant of it, but I'm skeptical. I think that it does go on, but I do think you're right and that it's not just a left thing.

Speaker 2:

It's more of a time thing where we're all stretched and we're also all maybe part of a culture that is less inclined to show that we're not perfect or to seek that kind of feedback. I think there's a lot of factors at play there, but I do think it goes on. But you're probably right that it would be beneficial if it went on more, and there are certainly barriers. Yeah, I mean, that's the thing. If you're right, if you're concerned that the outset is right, we have something to worry about regarding the way we communicate.

Speaker 1:

If that's right, which I think it is, then we have to do something, and I don't think doing something is just thinking about it. I have to be clearer, I have to pay attention to what's on other people's minds and try and make points that I believe should be made by relating to that. You have to practice it. There are some things in what you said that I've also been thinking about. I've been trying, and very informally. This is my opinion, but I think that's the point.

Speaker 2:

I think that's the point. There are some things in what you said that I've also been thinking about. I've been trying and very informally this is not some kind of a study that I've been working on but just in spare moments and in listening to what other people say on the subject from time to time, I've been trying to to do what you say to seek out methods of everything from big picture, critical literacy ideas, if you're in a position like we are on this podcast or like I am at Z, or if you're some kind of educator or have the opportunity to speak, where you can come at it in a way that makes your audience actually part of the of a dialogue, instead of you just trying to put your information on them and hope they accept it, which is, in my opinion, much more effective and actually produces better results overall. So that's kind of like, from one perspective as you having the position of someone with an audience or someone you know with a captive group that wants to engage. And I've also been looking at and trying to remember things in my past that have worked well Methods and styles of communicating that are more relationship based, because you also have this effect, not just as the left communicating to the world or as your organization communicating to your community. We have this between each other, within our organizations, and in your life, with all of your, your relationships.

Speaker 2:

I think that that same lack of communication skill and ability and practice exists. And there's a few, a few that I've come across. One which was very helpful for me in the past a few times in that context of trying to be be there for a loved one with mental health issues, for lack of a better framing of what to call people who are experiencing the world around them in a way that we tend to call mental health issues. And there's a, there's an author called Javier Amador and he has a leap method L E A P which originally he developed as a medical doctor, for really trust building and engaging in your relationship with someone who is struggling with mental illness and you want to be able to help them but also respect their autonomy. And where it's very often if you're dealing with two adults legally, it's impossible for you to force them to do what you think might be best for them and they don't agree with. So I've been kind of going back down that rabbit hole and I find it really helpful. I definitely recommend, if anyone listening is curious, to look that up, but it it basically just boils down to that. You need to look at communication as a dialogue in the context of your relationship. So if the person doesn't trust you and you're not actually coming from a place that respects the other person, having a right to an opinion, having a right to their autonomy and your desire to actually communicate rather than to just control them or control their thoughts, then it's not going to work. And I think myself included, a lot of us who are engaged in different advocacy work or trying to, you know, convince people that there's a better way to organize society. It's helpful to take a step back and and understand okay, are we in like an education environment here, or is this a relationship between me and the person? And the other thing you mentioned was that we need to practice, and I agree.

Speaker 2:

Communicating can really be a skill, and actually there there's another recommendation that I've been looking back into lately that I'll share with everyone. It was originally recommended to me by a fellow member of the Z staff and it was a book called difficult conversations and it was actually developed in kind of a business capitalist context by the Harvard negotiations people. But within that book is actually a very good, authentic map and with practical examples of skill building how you as an individual or you with others in like a two way or multi person scenario, can practice your own efficacy in having difficult conversations. So it's not necessarily like some kind of Machiavellian strategy about how to always get what you want, but at least how to be effective in your communication, and that definitely is a skill. So that that's kind of where I've been floating around lately and and there were two other bits of input into that that came to me recently in talking with others One is that you, you know, maybe we should be researching and looking into how, how you can compassionately and effectively communicate with cult members, because sometimes it actually feels like you know, if, if you're going to go talk to someone who's deep into QAnon or MAGA, you know it can feel like a cult member.

Speaker 2:

Or even if you're talking to someone who has a really different understanding of the history, of what's gone on in Palestine and Israel, it can feel like you're yeah, like you're talking to someone who has a completely different concept of reality.

Speaker 2:

So your starting point is is a huge barrier to communication and your emotional triggers are another huge barrier, and I feel like there might be something to that. But I, even if we de-escalate it from like, okay, we all need to learn how to talk to cult members like you, people who don't agree with us as such, which can be a slippery scale of something not good. I think that it's really common to be in a position where someone who doesn't agree with you is just going to tell you well, you're biased and so that's why you think what you think. And, to be fair, everyone has bias and, yes, we all get our news and our even our like history and facts from very different sources with their own biases. But I I've been trying to start this journey of learning how to communicate effectively where you're in a situation where you say I'm biased and I think you're ignorant, and how do you move forward from there?

Speaker 1:

Well, but I suspect that in the same way not real aggressively, but in the same way that a left person yourself, me, whoever feels like they're dealing with a cult member, they feel like they're dealing with cult members. The left, right, yeah, I mean, what does a cult have? A cult has a common culture, a common view of things. In some ways, the difference this will get me in trouble, but in some ways the difference between their cult and our cult is that there's I think I'm not sure this is right, but I think theirs is more mutually supportive within the group than ours is, which is pretty sad if it's true. But in any event, I think all the, all the, the tactics I guess you could call them the, the, you know, the ways of trying to be sincere that you're talking about are good ideas.

Speaker 1:

I think another simple one is to try and walk in the other person's shoes. You know, somehow, if you can't, you should be able to make their case, switch it back to, you know, out of the people who don't agree with you. So suppose I don't know, you're really strongly anarchist and somebody else is really strongly Leninist and you're having a conversation. If you're going to have a productive conversation. It helps a whole lot of at least one of you can make the other person's case.

Speaker 1:

I used to think this was a good way to practice, right? In other words, when there was an argument, stop, switch sides. In other words, if you're the anarchist and I'm the Leninist, switch sides until you you sort of agree. Well, yeah, you are making my case, you are saying what I think, that is what I think. There's a little bit of trust there because it means you've heard the other person, you know, and I've heard what you're saying and I can, I can do it. So maybe that helps. I'm not sure either, you know, but these, these issues, I think, are probably more germane to the Health and development of the left over, let's say, the last 50 years, then a lot of the stuff that we focus on Instead.

Speaker 2:

I think that I mean, at least for me, what is required is before we can take a step forward is honestly a big step back, and I say that as having started to like survey a lot of explain what a step back is. Yeah.

Speaker 1:

So what do you mean by that?

Speaker 2:

What I mean by that is having surveyed, you know, and revisited certain, I guess, communication experts that have resonated with me and been effective for me in the past and trying to, like, put this all together in the context of where we are right now.

Speaker 2:

When I say, take a step back, that the kind of common trend that I've noticed in all of these approaches to effective communication is Not necessarily are you the most knowledgeable, are you the best debater, are you the best able to control your emotions that's all important, but you actually have to want dialogue and you want, you have to want communication itself More than you want to be right and you have to be patient because, of course, you want everyone wants to be able to, you know, convince people that what they think is right is right.

Speaker 2:

But I say we need to take a step back because I think that, even though it's really hard because we have all these pressing issues that are so urgent and so emotionally triggering Like talking to a climate change denier or talking to someone who thinks what's happening in Gaza is justified it's so hard to actually be patient that you're not going to convince someone in one conversation and it's so hard to want to have a trusting relationship with that person and to be able to achieve open, constructive dialogue.

Speaker 2:

More than you want to change their mind, and I think that actually has to be the case if we're going to have any hope of changing any minds or, you know, coming to some kind of communication and that can be in your relationships. I think it's really important not to become isolated into a bubble where you only talk to people who agree with you and then I think that has lessons and again, like I'm just kind of at the beginning of thinking about this seriously, but I think this has to have lessons for organizing and for advocacy and how we publicly speak and write about all kinds of stuff.

Speaker 1:

But I think there's a catch 22 in what you're saying, or at least one part of it. If I'm here and you write, which, of course this is part of the problem that we don't hear each other right. But of course we want to convince the other person of something. Of course we want this thing that we believe to be believed by them. But I don't think that should be the first thing, because if you really are going to say I could be wrong, if you're really going to say we're communicating because we each have views, then what you want is the best result, and that might not be that you convince the other person. What about the other person convincing you? So that's obviously difficult but not impossible. So for me it's easier to know. Maybe both are true.

Speaker 1:

So if you're arguing about an ideology or something, well, you want to win, not the debate, not the discussion, not the world. You want to make change. And if you want to make change, you want the best ideas to prevail, not your ideas necessarily. So there's a real logic to that and it makes sense and it should be a priority, but it's hard to do Now. On the other hand, when you're talking to somebody who's saying you know, genocide is justified or is humane.

Speaker 1:

It's pretty difficult, I grant, and you know, I think we also have to admit that some things may be virtually impossible to do head to head until there's some phenomenon that is breaking through. I mean, you were careful to say over and over and I know you mean it that the idea isn't to manipulate the other person to agree with you, to turn them into an automaton. That's part of your army Right, which is that that is often what people, you know that's what I think Leninist parties are doing. But in any event, if it's not that, what is it? Well, what it is is to arrive at truthful, useful information. But you know that sort of means if you were going to critique degrowth not on your agenda right now, but if you were going to, you'd have to be able to make the degrowth case.

Speaker 1:

I think right, I think that's what you should be able to do. And then, when you're doing it, you don't want to win, you want whatever's better to emerge as shared views.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I agree with all of that and it's part of-, but it's still not tactics.

Speaker 2:

Well, it's part of you know the premise that you want to engage in good faith, and I think that should be a given, though it often isn't. I feel like that's what you're describing and I agree, because then why would you, you know, like bring up, you know cheap, misleading critiques or straw man, something that you're trying to critique seriously because, yeah, you're not going to arrive at an actual truth? You're like engaging in a performative debate, which, you know, youtube culture and all of that is everywhere, but that, you know what I'm talking about. More is like If we assume that we are trying to communicate in order to achieve the best results and to continue to do so in an ongoing process and to just also be able to maintain relationships in an age where any kind of disagreement is like so hard for people to handle that you don't even want to be in the same room with someone, especially when you accept that you're not going to change anyone's mind about anything significant in the conversation. If anyone on the left thinks back and tries to remember their journey, of how they arrived at their opinions about all kinds of things, they're going to find that they used to think something that now they might think is wrong or even offensive or totally misguided. If we're all trying to constantly become more liberated, then of course that's going to be our reality. So I'm interested in trying to find ways to compassionately create space and encourage others on that similar journey. And it's from what I've thought about it and read about it so far. It's not. There's no easy fix. It's kind of slow, painful work and it really requires each of us to take a step back and think okay, well, where am I coming from in this conversation? Am I here? Because my most important thing is to create trust and good faith and space for a dialogue where we both talk about stuff.

Speaker 2:

And there's a few interesting examples.

Speaker 2:

Because, like you pointed out, it's one thing if you're talking about imagining a future society and it's another thing if you're talking about something like Gaza, which you know it's hard to sit and be patient in a conversation with someone who you know might seem like a overall decent, wonderful human otherwise, but it has led to the conclusion that what's going on is somehow justified and somehow contributing to a good outcome.

Speaker 2:

It's hard to sit there and be present in that type of conversation and not lose your shit and attack the person because you have all these negative things that want to come out in your outrage, and it's not going to do anything to jump on that person or even to expect them to agree with you. But all these same things that we've been talking about, the kind of like stepping back and wanting the dialogue more than the win. Actually, even in that really kind of like acute, pressurized situation, I think it's still the solution, even though it's really hard, because if you create space for that person to maybe consider some of your points and feel that their points are respected, then it's possible that they can move. But if, yeah, if you explode and never speak to them again, that's not doing anything.

Speaker 1:

I feel like what you're talking about is how to, and what I was talking about was what to right, what to do, and the what to is pretty easy. I always choose the easy path, but the how to is hard. The thing is, I don't think you know. It's like how to ride a bike. You can't read a book and learn how to ride a bike. You have to ride right. You can read a book and learn Marxism. You can read a book and learn. You know, you can learn all sorts of things. You can learn that it's better to have one particular goal in a discussion than another particular goal in the discussion.

Speaker 1:

But to do what you're talking about, which is to become good at it and effective, you have to do it. So that's one thing about the reading. There's one other thing about that that makes me just a little nervous, which is you mentioned that one of the books that you were recommending was written, you know, in a corporate context. That doesn't consign it to Hades, so what the hell is called Hades? It doesn't consign it to being disgusting right off, but it does suggest that the person who wrote it didn't have exactly your kind of situation and motives in mind. So for example.

Speaker 1:

This might be a little hard for me to talk about, but when somebody has dementia, the advice for how to deal with it is, when they say something that's off or that's out of touch or whatever, just go with it and then change the topic.

Speaker 1:

And it seems to most people that it makes very good sense and it works. And it does make good sense for one set of people and it does work for that set of people the people who are housing, you know, in living facilities, people who have dementia. It works great for them because it gets past any issue and it doesn't take time and it doesn't, etc. It's very effective for sort of controlling the outcome, but it does nothing to help the sense of efficacy and being concerned for of the person who's just getting lip service. Now, I'm not really talking about the exact technique here. I'm talking about how, and this is why I think you have to do it and see how trying to come up with a method or with a way of being that communicates well is not an intellectual task. Ultimately, you have to do it and you have to see that you believe it works well, as compared to the book tells you that it works well.

Speaker 1:

Because, sometimes the book's working well is different from your notion of what working well is.

Speaker 2:

Just to clarify the suggestions that I shared today. I shared because I have tried their suggestions in practice and found them helpful, because there's plenty that I've read that I did not find helpful or just was not able like it didn't resonate with me and I couldn't put myself in the position, it didn't feel authentic to communicate that way. Still, there Got my nice degrowth. Let me give you a test.

Speaker 1:

What would you do in this circumstance? You're in another country. You're in England. I'll make it real. You're in the UK, you're there to speak and stuff. You go with somebody who's hosting to an event. It's a strike. Outside the strike there are people in that person's. The person who's showing you around, organization, party. They're selling a newspaper put out by the party. They're not even selling it, they're trying to hand it out. You watch for a bit. To your eyes the person is a virtual robot, is out of touch with what's really going on, doesn't seem to have any rapport with the people that they're trying to hand the newspaper to. It just seems like a mechanical sort of aggressive phenomenon quite different from what you've been talking about. Now, what do you say to the person you're with Because you want to talk about this?

Speaker 2:

I'm not really following, to be honest. So you're with someone that you know and you witness someone handing out pamphlets for their cause, their organization.

Speaker 1:

He's a big wig in the organization. He's a big wig in the organization.

Speaker 1:

Your friend is yeah the person showing me around, the person who is handing out the stuff is rank and file organization outside this thing handing out the stuff. So what I did is I said to him do you see anything about what we're looking at that concerns you at all or does it seem fine? And he said it's fine. And I said, funny, to me it doesn't seem fine. And I tried to describe what I was looking at and he said no, it's fine. And at that point I didn't know what to do.

Speaker 1:

I mean, we just saw two different worlds in front of us, right, he saw he probably would have described it as doing what you've been proposing people do, whereas to me it was. What I'm trying to get at is that sometimes the gap is really that we're in two different worlds. It's really that people are seeing two different things and it's very hard to get over that. So take the one that you've brought up a few times Gaza seen by, on the one hand, it's genocide and it's absolutely grotesque, etc. I'm seen, on the other hand, as it's self-defense that has a you know downside, to be sure, I agree, but it's self-defense and it's warranted and we're just seeing two different things and we're feeling it in two different ways, and I don't know what you do then.

Speaker 2:

Well, you just gave me an idea.

Speaker 1:

Of what to do.

Speaker 2:

No, well, maybe. So there's. You can kind of fall into this thing, and I know a lot of people do it. You know, if you have a difficult conversation or a debate, afterwards you always think, like replay it in your head, like, oh, I should have said this, like this, or and you can also imagine potential conversations like we're doing right now and think how would I apply what I'm talking about or what I've read about? Because you're right, you do need to practice it and do it. It needs to become your authentic way of communication because it makes sense to you, not because you've memorized something from a book but part of that is you know seeking out other ideas because we've all been trained by our society really poorly in communication for the most part.

Speaker 2:

So you know you might engage in some imagining like we're doing thinking. Okay, if I were to have a conversation with someone I know about Gaza and we came to this realization of living in two different worlds, how would I go about using these techniques? So, at the risk of jumping into what is a potential problematic area, I just opened chat GPT and asked to let me read you what I just asked it. I typed in some of the tactics we were like communication tactics we were talking about and I asked it give an example of a conversation about Israel's actions in Gaza. If the other person believes it's justified according to this communication style. You want to hear what it said, how this imagined-.

Speaker 1:

I will, because of course I should, because we're talking together. But I will tell you honestly, if it got it really good, that would probably bother me more than if it got it poorly.

Speaker 2:

Well, I'm curious also because of that. Like what you know, this AI, this machine learning, has synthesized all this, the input that we talked about. I told it all the sources that I was following, and this is its idea of how a person who wants to use this style of communication can engage in that conversation. So here we go. Discussing Israel's actions in Gaza can be a sensitive and challenging topic. Here's an example of a conversation incorporating the mentioned tactics with someone who believes Israel's actions are justified. Number one stay calm and open you. This is telling you what you would say.

Speaker 2:

I've noticed that we might have different perspectives on the situation in Gaza, and I'd really like to understand your thoughts better. Can we have an open conversation about it? Do you want to react? It's got like 10 suggestions. Do you want to react to each one, or should I just read them and then you can tell me if it's all?

Speaker 1:

up to you, okay.

Speaker 2:

Well, that first one, I feel like okay, you didn't need to be a robot genius to figure that one out. You know Invite, invite dialogue if you want dialogue. So number two express a desire for understanding and it suggests you would say I genuinely want to hear your viewpoint and learn more about why you believe Israel's actions are justified. Your perspective is important to me.

Speaker 1:

I would dump the word genuinely, and I would dump which means it's not genuine, and I would dump the word I don't know. Your perspective means a lot to me. I mean, suppose it was true which it should be.

Speaker 2:

I don't know why you think what you do. That's the main point. Like I would never attempt to memorize something like this and like have it in my back pocket for a potential conversation. But what I think is interesting is like the machines basically spitting back out to us what we said was important. And now I'm trying to imagine myself in this conversation and it would be hard to tell someone your perspective is important to me in that situation, Because everything inside me is screaming your perspective is wrong and horrible. I want you to change it because otherwise I think you're a decent human. But that again, like what we just talked about. If we're trying to train ourselves to be better communicators, actually it is true, If you value that relationship and your goal is dialogue, the other person's perspective has to be important to you, even when it's wrong, and we have to be able to accept that I don't think that's hard to attain intellectually In the moment, emotionally.

Speaker 2:

In the moment. Emotionally, I think it would be a lot of users Maybe so.

Speaker 1:

But I mean, I'm just saying, you can come at these things with a prior understanding of why they make sense.

Speaker 2:

Well, that's what we're doing here.

Speaker 1:

Let me just interject something about this AI thing. In China there's an American I don't remember his name, but an American I guess, a psychologist, a sort of a. He's concerned with dealing with depression and dealing with senses of inadequacy etc. And he's a therapist. He's hugely popular. He's elderly. Now they made an AI firm in China made and put together an AI to replicate him and his therapy and it's being used in China by people who don't have access to this guy but want the therapy. It was done without his permission, but he got wind of it, he looked at it and he liked it. He thought it did a great job and it would.

Speaker 1:

What is the word legacy? It would be his legacy that he would live on. So here's two different ways of seeing things. I mean, this is even two different ways To me. This is like a nightmare to most people. It's hey, this is terrific, these people get access to AI. I mean, they get access to this kind of therapy and it's cheap, maybe even cause nothing, and he likes it. So here's the problem. Okay, so this could be a hard discussion. You know, it doesn't have to be Gaza. It could be because AI, good or bad, was back when Facebook was happening, I was almost at war with people over his Facebook. Good or bad, they just wouldn't. So it comes up all the time. What's the most extreme situation in which communication is critical?

Speaker 2:

Well, I mean, I agree with you. It's to me, it's a tool and, like all tools, it depends on the context in which it's used and developed. And also, like all tools, some well maybe all have secondary effects. Like you know, if we, if we use this tool for everything that our critical thinking used to do, then Then it's the person and we're the thing. We're not developing that, that tool, within ourself, so we're reliant on this thing to do it for us.

Speaker 1:

So I see how we're slowly becoming the robot and it is becoming the person.

Speaker 2:

But in this case I don't really see that it's that problematic, because what we're trying to do is like use use it as something to just throw back what we said to us, and then we can critique it.

Speaker 1:

That's all that happens. Okay, I'm not going to.

Speaker 2:

I'm not going to become the. I'm not going to walk around with this AI generated conversation and start trying to.

Speaker 1:

That's what's coming. It's in your pocket, not on your computer. That's already all this stuff is anyway. Forget all about that.

Speaker 2:

Well, if it's too upsetting, we can abandon the critical conversation of how to talk to your friend about Gaza. But I don't know. I thought it was an interesting.

Speaker 1:

I don't think you can probably practice, at least not yet, the human skills or the human behaviors that are needed to be a good communicator, communicating with an AI.

Speaker 2:

No, I'm not suggesting that's what we're doing.

Speaker 1:

I know you weren't. I know you weren't.

Speaker 2:

What I was trying to get out of. My idea was just so that, you know, I mean we could sit here and imagine, you know, you could play the person and I could play the other person and we could pretend a conversation and see how it would go. But my idea was more like observe the conversation and try and imagine yourself there and, in a way, what you think you should do, how you think you should communicate better with, what might I actually do and feel in this moment, just to recognize, you know, to kind of illustrate how hard it is and how far we need to go. You know it's a lot about oh, we need to communicate because people are all brainwashed and people are ignorant. But actually I think we need to learn how to communicate from a place of recognition that we're not good at communicating, and not just the left, but like everybody where we're trained really bad and it's also true just because somebody disagrees with you doesn't mean they're insane or, you know, in a cult or whatever.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it also doesn't mean that you can't have extreme disagreements and not share space.

Speaker 1:

Yeah.

Speaker 2:

Ever again.

Speaker 1:

I have a friend for 55 years, I think something like that and we have a disagreement and we agree on almost everything, but we have a disagreement around a particular body of thoughts, current relevance, and he sees our interaction and thinks I am not hearing him and I am wedded To my particular view about this intellectual framework, let's call it and blind to the evidence in the other direction and I think the exact same thing in return, with a slightly different context. Neither of us is brainwashed. It's just sort of silly, given you know, but the point is it's everywhere. I think it has a whole lot to do with identity. For example, in the cases that you raise Gaza or Maga, you know, arguing about Trump or something like that, any of these things.

Speaker 1:

Often it seems to be the case that if you're really arguing about facts or you're really arguing about logic, it's possible to do that Right. But if what's happening is that those are irrelevant, because what's what's driving is protecting an identity on either side, now you're having trouble communicating. Take me and the person handing out the newspaper and the other person. If my, if I'm viewing that because I'm critical of Leninism and I can't possibly admit it's inconceivable that they're doing something humane and participatory, etc. Etc. So I see it the way I see it, and if he sees it the way he sees it because he's in the party and because he defends the party and because the party does good, and so he sees it that way we're going to have trouble. If there was an actual fact you know, does the person use too many? You know some kind of fact then we could probably even reach an agreement about it.

Speaker 1:

Well, it's interesting how do you get at that identity issue when you're communicating?

Speaker 2:

It's interesting that you brought up identity and also, coming from a place of different facts, about what happened in the first place or where what's happening, because you you had misgivings about my recommendation from the Harvard book, the difficult conversations book, but actually that's the kind of like exact framework of that book and it it wasn't written by people, developed for corporate negotiating. However, it was taken up and published and is taught by Harvard negotiations council or whatever it's called. So I feel like it's more like this is a framework that was not and when you read it it's not developed from a perspective of like how to be the best capitalist or how to be the best corporate Worker. It's more like that's just how it's applied and became successful because you know, you put Harvard's name on it and there you go. But it interestingly it really comes like.

Speaker 2:

The initial framing of what they lay out in this book is that there's three main conversations happening simultaneously in all difficult conversations in fact all, maybe all conversations and the first is the what, what happened, so understanding the facts. The second is the feelings conversation and acknowledging emotions, and then third being that identity conversation which is addressing the impact on one sense of self, and that most effectively. Both people in the conversation are aware of and able to engage in those three conversations that the what happened, the emotions and the identity throughout to together interesting.

Speaker 2:

You know come through a good, so that that's just like the book talks about more stuff. But that's kind of like. What you were hinting at is like we need to start from this as a base and understand that there are actually more than one conversation happening in each conversation and contributing to the fourth one.

Speaker 1:

there's a fourth one, which is what are the implications?

Speaker 2:

Yeah right.

Speaker 1:

What are the consequences? So that was all. There's also the disagreement over the consequences, but anyway, you know, there's a sense in which Harvard stars take for granted that they're right, take for granted that winding up where they are is the, is the, the right outcome, and are confident enough so that let's call it a really good method of communicating, will get there. So they might in fact propose a really good method of communicating. You know, I'm saying, in other words, if there's a really good method of communicating, so the stuff that you've been talking about, the assumption is, will get some place, that it ought to get, and from the point of view of the Harvard character, that's gonna be me, it's gonna agree with me when it, when the dust settles, because I'm always right.

Speaker 1:

So I don't know, I mean, I mean oddly oddly, it's somebody, it's a, it's a perspective that lacks some confidence right that might not want to use that. Really good, they want to manipulate.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. So I think I agree with what you're saying. If what you're saying is that, again, if we're acting in good faith in, our goal is actually dialogue in order to arrive at the best possible outcome, respecting each other's autonomy and that different perspectives exist, and really arriving at an outcome that we both agree is correct and the best, rather than going into it saying I'm right, I really don't care what they think, I just want to make them agree with me, even if that means pretending to respect them or manipulating them. So I don't know what with this book in particular, it it really is the former. You know, it's a method in order for people to be able to achieve dialogue and achieve outcomes that they're both satisfied with.

Speaker 1:

So the really bad, the really bad news about the AI yeah, that's not what it's going to be doing. We're about to see a world class gargantuan display Of trying to manipulate outcomes in the election. So what the AI is going to be doing is using, you know, endless data to try and figure out how to couch things. Truth who cares? Facts, who cares? Results for anybody other than you know? The person running the AI who cares? But what we do care about is getting everybody to do what we want. I vote for such and such. I have a feeling the upcoming election is going to be Kafka couldn't come up with it. The amount of you know, not what Trump was doing way back, but the amount of sophisticated, carefully conceived and so far as an AI can do that evidential based Manipulative technique is going to be huge, just huge.

Speaker 2:

Well, you're probably right, but I also think I mean, isn't this what algorithms are?

Speaker 2:

and this is what you know in a sense has has been happening well, that we Are manipulated by, you know Still, by by the powerful, but through technological tools like when you search for one thing, it gives you lots more of the next. Or you know, like there's this phenomenon that people say on YouTube that it it lead. Even if you search for like left content, it eventually it keeps inserting more right content and like tries to. So I mean, I mean advertising is like. This has been going on. But I think you're right, I can definitely charge it and the climate we're in.

Speaker 2:

But again, this is exactly why I think a really good thing that we can all do or at least like what I'm trying to do for myself Is take a step back and assess how am I communicating, what are my habits, what are my skills? Because this is what we're up against. We're up against Information and sensory ecosystem that is trying to divide and conquer, that is constantly othering and scapegoating and, obviously, so your answer to that is more good, right?

Speaker 1:

In other words, more good communication. Regrettably, a lot of people's answer is going to be better, bad communication, more effective.

Speaker 2:

Bad my Against your. But at the end of the day, you know that isn't working. And unless you're Unless, you are the one with all the resources to do the most.

Speaker 1:

But they are.

Speaker 2:

You know, like to have the biggest megaphone. That's not going to work, and so, from our perspective, like in most of the things I'm involved with.

Speaker 1:

Oh, I see it's not a good tactic for us.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, like it's not. It doesn't work. Shouting louder and alienating people, even as a pressure valve for our passion and frustration, is not doing anything. So I think that something powerful that we can and should do, that anyone can do. And you know, you're right, you don't have to get ideas from a book, you don't have to make it an academic endeavor, you can just practice and self reflect. But I mean, I find reading about and listening to other ideas and hearing examples is helpful to me. But you know, however, anyone wants to do it. It's just we need to reflect and we need to.

Speaker 1:

It. It sounds like we're talking about communication. Ie what we're doing, talking right, you know something like that, but that's not the only kind of communication. So let me ask you another question Time for a demonstration about Gaza. Do you favor having a legal, peaceful march or blocking a bridge, and why?

Speaker 2:

I like the both and approach depending on context. I think that you know their disruption intentional disruption is a very good tactic sometimes, and mass mobilization where you make something feel happy, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait.

Speaker 1:

When and why is it a very good practice?

Speaker 2:

Well, either of them depends on context.

Speaker 1:

So that's the disruption blocking the bridge. Yesterday in New York, a group of the way I've heard it is a group of a few hundred blocked one bridge. And no, they divided into three groups and they blocked three pretty much simultaneously and made chaos because they were effective at it. So they did what they set out to do. I mean, they were very efficient and effective, is what I'm told, and let's assume it's the case. And so they affected traffic, et cetera, et cetera. And the question becomes why is that or isn't that a good choice?

Speaker 2:

Well, I think that in this case, it's a good choice because of a few reasons. One is that there have been large peaceful marches already, so you can look at it as like an escalation. But I also think that in New York, in the US, more people than ever are aware and Palestine is on their radar, but it's still. I think most people in the US are not thinking about Gaza every day, even though there's a genocide going on and even though our tax dollars are funding it. So I think, in that case, something disruptive that is very attention grabbing and is going to get media coverage, it's going to interrupt people's day.

Speaker 2:

What's the effect of your day being interrupted. You're going to ask why are these people sitting in the road on the bridge? And you're going to have to hear about it and you're going to understand a different level of seriousness about where they're coming from.

Speaker 1:

Okay, so that's. If all that is true, then it leads to good communication, right, in other words, the action communicated well. But is that necessarily true? Couldn't it also be the case that it just totally infuriates people who think that they're dealing with a bunch of lunatics?

Speaker 2:

Oh yeah, for sure, but you just have to weigh you know, like there's going to be in any kind of disruption is going to be a balance, like you're going to have to try and make an educated assessment before you decide to do something like that of pros and cons.

Speaker 2:

And I think in this situation I'm not as familiar with that action specifically, but in general, I think right now these type of actions that are happening are having a more positive than negative effect.

Speaker 2:

I think in climate action, where it's been going on for a long time, where you have to weigh disruption against, like display or you know, something that's entertaining and eye catching versus something that really you know stops people's day, and I think that a lot of lessons have been being learned and continue to be learned about being smart and making it the communication You're right Making the messaging and like the framing and the executing of actions like this, really, really clear that it's against a corporation or a government, not against people trying to get to work. And if people getting to work are disrupted, it's important to have the community outreach and the people doing the thing on the ground communicating as best they can why they're there doing what they're doing, so it's not just, like you said, people being like well, these people have room to my day and they're just insane people who are trying to make a lot of noise, but there's always going to be an element of that.

Speaker 1:

But in any case, different situations, different contexts, different time, different amounts of people, all sorts of factors vary, go into it. But thinking just in terms of, for instance, you're going to block a door at a meeting right in order for people not to get into the meeting, a lot of people will evaluate that and they'll look at that and they'll say we did it, we kept them out for six hours, or, oh my God, we failed. We only lasted 20 minutes and they got in. And I don't think that has much of anything to do with a real evaluation. The real evaluation is we reach people in a way that increases the likelihood that they'll move left, that they'll feel sympathy for what's going on, blah, blah, blah. We affected ourselves in a way which will cause us to be stronger and better organized, and so on. But the actual blocking, who cares? I mean, that's the thing that occupies people's minds, and I'm not saying you don't do it, I'm saying that's not.

Speaker 1:

What is the measure of success or failure? Measure of success or failure is always is the movement stronger or less strong afterwards, both its members and its outreach? So back to communicating verbally. Maybe it's sort of similar. Now you've come up with ways to accomplish it. But well, this creates that contradiction. If you go into the discussion with the feeling success is the movement comes out better, the left comes out better, not better in a competition stronger as a result of what's happened. That's different than going in with the attitude If we communicate well, we're capable of talking together more afterwards. That's a success.

Speaker 1:

They're not the same thing I don't know, are they?

Speaker 2:

Oftentimes. I think so because, if you want, first of all, I think a lot of groups who engage in direct action are doing what you say. Part of their strategy is not just how long can we block the road or the door. It's a much bigger picture of what is this going to achieve.

Speaker 1:

What it is.

Speaker 2:

that's good, obviously, I think that does exist and you're right it should, but I also think it deserves mention that it does In the communication aspect. I kind of think it's the same thing where.

Speaker 1:

Here's a situation where it isn't.

Speaker 2:

If you want the left to come out better than having achieved communication, that maybe it's not an option to just change people's minds instantly, creating space and creating more dialogue. And I'm not saying to give an inch on our principles and our values, but I'm saying to re-approach how we communicate and make dialogue a priority. I think that will make the left stronger.

Speaker 1:

If you were debating with somebody with a position you don't like, whatever it is, and you're doing it in a hall. What is the measure of success or failure?

Speaker 2:

Well, that's different because, again, that has a performative element to it. It doesn't mean, in my opinion it doesn't mean you should just smash the person if you can and take cheap shots. That might, on one hand, maybe that would make a recording of it go viral, but I think it's not going to change any minds that again, if the overall goal is dialogue and we need less separation, less division, then yes, it's a debate and it's performative.

Speaker 2:

You want to win, but you want to do so in a way that doesn't take cheap shots, that shows that you actually have an appreciation and a clear understanding of the position you're debating against, so that someone who doesn't agree with you could watch that and be like, oh, maybe think twice. And you've created that space.

Speaker 1:

What's coming clear is that your audience is not the person you're talking with. It's everybody who sees it Right.

Speaker 2:

Yes, yes, in that sense, that is the difference is that the bigger picture is the performative. If you're publicly debating someone, you're not in a private conversation, building a trusting relationship, or two humans come into some kind of communion it's different.

Speaker 1:

I once debated Hube Humphrey when he was vice president and about to run. I didn't give a shit what he thought about me after it was over. I wasn't trying to get it so that, well, we'll be able to go out and have a beer and talk in the ways that you're talking about with. I didn't care. I only cared about the audience.

Speaker 2:

Yeah Well, I think that's correct. Again, the only thing I would say is if you're talking about the audience. Are you talking about just your audience, that you know already agrees with you, or are you talking about your entire the thing?

Speaker 1:

to move in good directions which is different for those different people.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, Now suppose you do this often, right? Suppose you often are in that position. What are the odds that you're going to be good at what you've been talking about One to one? You see what I'm saying, in other words, the people who engage in the activity for the purpose of not the person they're talking to may get really good at that, but it's not going to make them really good at talking to somebody else. In fact, they'll probably carry over habits that will make talking to somebody one to one not very good.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, again. That's why I really think a big old step back and assessing each one of us, our own communication, and not even just to change minds, but within groups of like-minded people, there's effects of our.

Speaker 1:

No, it's the way that we communicate.

Speaker 1:

But then it also means that the left, so to speak just imagine it bigger should not only be practicing this stuff, but it should be sensitive to people's ability. At the level so far, they're trying to get better. And if somebody is good at debating for the audience, then they do that. If somebody is good at talking one to one, then they do that. How much effort should be put into making each one better at the thing they're not good at. You see what it leads toward. It leads toward well, this other person is good at making the decisions and this other person is good at carrying them out, so let's just keep doing that.

Speaker 2:

I don't know. I'm not looking at this so much as something that can be imposed throughout, or even if by vote or consensus through our organizations, that we all agree that now we all have a mandate to improve our communication and we need to see to it to help each other do that. Okay, in one way, that's great, but I really see this as more an acknowledgement of our culture that has ill-prepared us to be good communicators, and it's kind of like a personal journey for everyone to choose to look at themself and make that determination. And then, yeah, of course, we can help each other and what we're doing today. We can share ideas about it and concerns. Yeah, of course, if someone's really good at debating and your organization can benefit from their skill, let them do that. But I don't think one necessarily has to do with the other.

Speaker 1:

I got another question for you, you have a pretty significant athletic background. Right, was it team sports ever or always? Individual, both, both okay. So my question is are coaches good communicators? Good ones are Well, yes and no yeah well, I want to know what's the difference there?

Speaker 2:

Good ones are. I think there's it's possible. Don't they want to win? Yeah well, I think there's it's possible, don't they want to win? Yeah, well, I think there's, I think there's yeah.

Speaker 1:

So shouldn't they all want to do it as well as it can be done?

Speaker 2:

Communicate, that is.

Speaker 1:

That's what coaching is right Communicating plus, every once in a while, demanding Okay. So since they want to win, shouldn't they all want to become the best coach they could be?

Speaker 2:

I think that they generally do want to be the best coach they can be.

Speaker 1:

So why do some become better and some worse, and what's the difference? I'm not sure our audience is going to go for all this, but I don't know if I'm going for this one.

Speaker 2:

Why don't you tell me, no, I have no idea.

Speaker 1:

I don't have that athletic background. You've got experience of these folks.

Speaker 2:

I'm not sure if this is what you're kind of angling at, but yes, communication skill has something to do with it. What makes you good at anything? There's lots of different aspects and it very much depends on the sport. But yeah, communication skill, relationship building, being a good strategist, like anything, dedication there's lots of things.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, but some succeed and some fail and it's not as in everything. Yeah, I don't know. I think there's something there, I don't know, maybe.

Speaker 2:

Maybe I don't know, I'm not seeing it.

Speaker 1:

We've also been talking now for an hour, so perhaps I was just about to say an hour and 16 minutes and 11 seconds. Right, it's an hour, 16 minutes and 17 seconds, so I'm not sure that that's a new record, but it's nearly a new record. I mean, for me it's enough.

Speaker 2:

What I wanted to talk about today was basically what we did. I just wanted to bring up that this is something that feels very timely and very important and I've it's been mentioned to me by a bunch of different people recently and it's also been on my mind, so I just wanted to share a few of the little pathways that I've been peering down and to see what people think, and definitely to invite them to jump into Z's Discord server or just talk to each other if you also think that it's interesting and important.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I hope folks will do that. After all, if something's important, it should get time and focus, so I guess, if they don't do that, it's a message that maybe we're wrong about how important this is.

Speaker 2:

Are you trying to guilt or like prompt people into Engagements so that we don't feel bad about being wrong?

Speaker 1:

If they don't, is it going to make you think you're wrong?

Speaker 2:

No, not to be honest, me neither.

Speaker 1:

Me neither.

Speaker 2:

And listen. I think.

Speaker 1:

Is that good or bad? I'm not so sure.

Speaker 2:

Well, I think that people listen to podcasts for lots of different reasons, and sometimes something just speaks to you and you're like I if I have an opportunity, I want to talk to that person more about this, or you might want to talk to people in your own surroundings about it. Yeah, well, that's, or you might just say oh yeah, that was interesting food for thought, and I was just doing this while I was washing the dishes.

Speaker 2:

So like I'm not going, to take a lack of activity in the comments section for a failure of the idea in full, but it's more just about. You know, this is a platform where we can share stuff and a few people find it interesting, so why not?

Speaker 1:

All right. Do you have anything else you want to slip in before we call it quits for this time.

Speaker 2:

I think I've occupied people's ears for enough time. Okay, I will stop.

Speaker 1:

I have 47 more, no, okay, so again, this is Mike Albert signing off. Until next time for Revolution Z.

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