The Red Boot Coalition has a radical idea: when things get heated and tempers flair, stop and listen. Countering national anxiety through small-group conversations may seem naive, but it’s catching on. Below, Immanuel member, Anne Evans, reflects on how the process has changed her approach to listening and disagreements:
After being trained as a Red Boot guide, I was struck by how little true listening happens in our society. When group participants were speaking, each of us listened deeply–knowing that we were not going to react, judge, or try to fix that person. Somehow that made me feel freer to deeply want to understand that person. I wasn’t so busy formulating what I was going to say next but, instead, focused on hearing deeply what was being said by the other person.
When I spoke during group meetings, I experienced a sense of being cared for and appreciated simply for my willingness to try to speak my truth. As a result of a series of those kinds of experiences over the course of several days, I felt real closeness to the people in my group. I felt that they knew me and appreciated me in a way that was very precious. I didn’t feel any pressure to speak, but when I did speak I was sometimes surprised by the things that bubbled up—things that I hadn’t even realized were in my heart. Almost a year later, I still feel a closeness to the people who were in my group. We have deeper conversations when we run into each other than I have with some people I’ve known for much longer. My group was diverse in terms of age, gender, nationality. Likewise, the issues I was concerned about were very different from what others were experiencing; still, our bond formed very naturally.
Now, when I meet a new person I am much better able to tame the urge to fix, to problem solve right off the bat. Conversations are less the trading of stories about “that reminds me of the time when I had a similar experience” or suggestions about “have you thought about doing xyz?” and more about trying to really understand what another person is experiencing.
You’re invited to try the Red Boot Coalition process yourself! The Immanuel Red Boot Coalition group will meet on Wednesday evenings from February 1 through April 19, 2017 with a maximum of 14 participants and two trained guides. Registration for the group will be open to the public. Participants must commit to attend 9 of the 12 sessions. Our goal is to empower people right here in our own faith community and in the larger community to demonstrate what love, compassion, courage, and a willingness to truly listen can do. Click here for more information.