Why you should move your boundaries and share your fears

Where are your boundaries and what are you ready to share to open up for a constructive conversation? That's two questions we see need more practice in order to make the bubble-hopping experience work better.

A question all bubble-hoppers sooner or later ask is: “Where are the boundaries for whom to engage with and talk to in a respectful way?”

Some feel it is no use to talk to a racist. Or a Trump supporter. Or a left-wing extremist. Or a climate activist. Or a militant Islamist. Or someone who “know” that Covid is orchestrated by Bill Gates or global pharmacy companies.

“Where are the boundaries for whom to engage with and talk to in a respectful way?”

The hopper just cannot accept the other person’s values and beliefs. Let alone be curious to meet and engage in a conversation.

Or like the anti-semitist Anetta Kahane, founder and chairman of the German Amadeu-Antonio Foundation, says: “What you call polarization, I call conflict. The conflict must be fought”

In a similar direction, we had a participant in a three-part bubble-hopping course online, who says it is no use to talk to those you know you will never convince they are wrong. “I won´t change that person’s mind anyway.”

Both are valid points. Boundaries may be political, juridical, value-based, experience-based, or something else. They are individual and should be respected.

One part of the bubble-hopping is to move those boundaries. To listen to each other’s motives, feelings, and worries might draw widely opposing positions into a less destructive middle.

The Swedish psychologist Martin Forster puts it like this: ”Your way of acting (therefore) gives hope, because you reach out a hand instead of distancing yourself. If society as a whole can show the same empathy and kindness for odd perceptions, without legitimizing them for that reason, the breeding ground for conspiracy theories is weakened.”

This segways into the topic of sharing.

To share and show empathy in a conversation might open up for a less polarized talk. After using bubble-hopping as a pedagogical tool, Emma Stenström writes: “It will never be enough with just asking and listening, you also need to share your own thoughts. Otherwise you become an interrogator, and that does not make for a fruitful conversation.”

Read more of Emma’s reflections on sharing and some research she has found about it here.

In an online course with master students from different countries, Emma listened in to bubble-hopping conversations in 15 break-out groups. Here are two examples:

- A climate activist took time to listen to a person who had to fly in order to meet his parents, siblings and friends. She saw and reflected over the frequent flyer’s emotional point of view. Their conversation moved from CO2-emissions and global warming to be about relatives, longing, and a sense of belonging. Gradually it developed to a constructive conversation about how to find solutions for climate change”, Emma says.

- In another break-out room I heard an anti-racist activist sharing what happened when he started to listen to people who are totally against immigration. His show of respect gave him a chance to talk about his conviction and experiences. He and his fierce opponents moved forward to a more constructive talk”.

Here are more reflections and experience about boundaries and sharing:

Max Hawkins, founding father of bubble-hopping We don´t know our boundaries. We need to bubble-hop randomly. That’s how we can find them. Hilke Wagner, museum director at the Albertinum art museum in Dresden Our big meetings with opposing groups made hatred disappear.

Take America to dinner, a successful initiative for depolarizing politics in the US

MADA is open to anyone from any social location, political affiliation, and cultural background who agrees to our premise of respectful dialogue and who does not enter with an agenda to debate or change minds, but rather to listen and learn.

Where are your boundaries and what are you ready to share to open up for constructive conversation?

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