NYTImes opinion columnist David Brooks writes about the art of connecting, even in time of dislocation. His list of “non-obvious lessons for how to have better conversation, which I’ve learned from people wiser than myself,” are applicable to non-Covid times as well.
In her recent NYTimes article (What if Instead of Calling People Out, We Called Them In?, 11.18.20), journalist Jessica Bennett introduces us to Professor Loretta Ross, who is combating “cancel culture” with a popular class at Smith College.
Ross, an activist of more than 40 years, helped organized a delegation of women of color at the March for Women’s Lives in 1989.
The novel The Darling by Russell Banks (HarperCollins, 2004) is told in the voice of Hannah Musgrave, the ultimate privileged child of the 1960s, a former Weatherman sought by the FBI, widow of a minister in the Liberian government, and caretaker of threatened chimps. The book begins with Hannah’s decision to return to Liberia in her late 50s. “We return to a place,” she writes, “in order to learn why we left.”
The following is Hannah’s magnificent description of aging and of death, as her story unfolds in the book’s opening pages.
The essential strategies that promote peaceful living between partners under normal circumstances are beautifully summarized in this morning’s NYTimes – in the context of coping with the stresses of the current pandemic.
Celeste Headlee, who has worked as an NPR and Public Radio host for decades, knows the ingredients of a great conversation: honesty, brevity, clarity and a healthy amount of listening. Author of We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations That Matter (2017), Headlee notes that most of us don’t listen with the intent to understand, but rather to reply — a dynamic that is clearly evident in many dysfunctional relationships.
So many of the struggles of the couples I work with revolve around one or the other’s need to always be right, to hold on tight to ideas, beliefs or perceptions as if their lives depend upon it.
While possibly protecting us from our own self-doubt and uncertainty, this need to always be right “calcifies” our ability to listen well, to be flexible and open-minded, and makes us a lot less fun to be around to boot…. And by regularly dismissing our partner’s ideas and feelings, we are also inadvertently poisoning our relationship.
When someone asks you where you are from … do you sometimes not know how to answer? Writer Taiye Selasi speaks on behalf of “multi-local” people, who feel at home in the town where they grew up, the city they live now and maybe another place or two. “How can I come from a country?” she asks. “How can a human being come from a concept?”
Many of us have had the experience of saying something we thought was innocuous, only to have a friend or partner interpret it as a veiled accusation or an attempted guilt-trip. Or the reverse — an innocent comment by the other is perceived as a slight or criticism. Each party experiences and interprets the same situation in very different ways.