With all the talk about how we are polarized as a society, there is good news in the development and utilization of a practice that creates greater empathy and understanding.
The practice is called “Deep Canvassing” and it involves meaningful conversations across difference. With deep canvassing, canvassers engage strangers who might have a different ideology and creates a connection through a two-way conversation. The conversation requires three tenants: the first is active listening, which shows the stranger that their perspective is valid and understood, which is accomplished in part through asking follow-up questions and supportive body language. The second is real conversations – this means echoing the strangers feelings back to them and giving space to reflect. And finally, the third is to share personal stories. This involves the canvasser sharing their personal perspective and experience, which displays vulnerability and enables the stranger to relate personally.
These three tenants are part of bridging difference. They are not a quick solution – they require being open, listening, going at a considerate pace, and being prepared to accept difference. But it works – deep canvassing is credited with, in part, changing attitudes toward acceptance of same-sex marriage for example. And with everything that pulls us apart these days, it’s helpful to know that there are ways in which we can come together.