Two quick stories
I spent 20 years teaching Suzuki violin, a method based on the work of the Japanese pedagogue Shinichi Suzuki, who saw that the devastation of his country from the war meant that generations of Japanese children would grow up knowing nothing of peace and beauty-only the aftermath of war. He gave them the gift he had to give – the gift of music, built around the idea of positive , truthful reinforcement of the way a child learns the mother tongue. His ability to be positive was often challenged by those who had grown up with more critical methods. Once, as teachers observed, he was teaching a boy whose initial performance had been so lacking in any musical grace that they were SURE there was no way Suzuki Sensei could find any good thing to say. “Good,” he said to the boy. “You play. Now let’s work on weak points!” Several teachers protested that there was nothing good in the performance. “Good that he plays,” Dr. Suzuki replied. “Many people don’t.” Find the good. Then work on that which is weak. In our language, find the commonality; then know how to work with differences.
Dr. Suzuki’s positive approach is a huge part of training teachers to work in this method. Utilized (practiced) over and over again, it becomes a way of life. We had a local teacher whose partner came in at the end of the day drenched from the rain, and sat down in an upholstered chair. Noting the leather chair in the room, the teacher asked if he would be more comfortable in it, rather than the upholstered chair. “There you go with that positive stuff again!” said the wet clothed spouse. Internalized positive attitude and behavior!
I was called to do conflict resolution at a university with two music faculty members who had been at war with each other over many years. As we worked with defining behaviors and looking at how they impacted others, it was clear to both teachers that there was negative impact on their students. As we brainstormed possible alternative behaviors to achieve different results, one looked at me and said slowly, “You’re asking us to change how we BE in the world, and that’s hard!”
Indeed it is hard, but more than worth it, if we are to change the polarization in our lives.
I believe that the time is now for Talking Together because I have seen this process change lives of individuals, families and organizations. I believe that Talking Together is one way we know works.
If you believe that we need to stop talking about the need to change and start making the changes, keep reading. It will take all of us learning these skills and practicing them to change our world which is desperately in need of change.