The dissent conversation begins by allowing people the space to say no. It rests on the belief that if we cannot say no, then our yes has no meaning…
The dissent conversation creates an opening for commitment. The questions explicitly ask for doubts and reservations. When they are expressed, we need to just listen. Don’t solve them, defend against them, or explain anything. People’s doubts, cynicism, resignation are theirs alone. Not to be taken on by us. …. Without doubt, our faith has no meaning, no substance; it is purchased at too small a price to give it value.
This sounds simple and true enough, but in a patriarchal world, dissent is considered disloyalty. Or negativism. Or not being a team player. Or not being a good citizen. America, love it or leave it. You are either with us or against us. This is a corruption of hospitality and friendship. Hospitality is the welcoming not only of strangers, but also of the strange ideas and beliefs they bring with them.
A critical task of leadership is to protect space for the expression of people’s doubts. The act of surfacing doubts and dissent does not deflect the communal intention to create something new. What is critical, and hard to live with, is that leaders do not have to respond to each person’s doubts. None of us do. Authentic dissent is complete simply in its expression. When we think we have to answer people’s doubts and defend ourselves, then the space for dissent closes down. When people have doubts, and we attempt to answer them, we are colluding with their reluctance to be accountable for their own future. All we have to do with the doubts of others is get interested in them. We do not have to take them on or let them resonate with our own doubts. We just get interested.*
Who are those you currently plan and live with? How might you remain open or closed to dissent that they are expressing, in an effort to be accountable for their own future?
As you plan for your gathering, how will you leave room for dissenting conversations?
*Block, Peter. Community: The Structure of Belonging(p. 124, 132 ). Berrett-Koehler Publishers.