We all have feelings. We all make judgments. We all have needs. But an acute awareness of how our feelings and judgments relate to our needs is the foundation of connecting with people we disagree with.
That was the consensus Saturday at Fort Lewis College, where about 45 people gathered to discuss diversity and how to best accept other people for who they are. The best way to accept others is to first accept ourselves, said Rachel Turiel, who won a “Visionary Women: Champions of Peace & Nonviolence” award from the Durango Women’s Resource Center.
Most judgments and feelings are signs of a deeper need not being satisfied, Turiel told the audience.
Our needs are often common – such as a need to be recognized as an individual or a desire to be understood – and it’s often the way we try to achieve these needs that causes conflict, said Kati Esperes-Stevens, another presenter at the nonviolent communication seminar.
There are many ways people try to resolve conflicts for one another: giving advice; offering reassurance; minimizing a problem; responding with a personal story; and empathizing. Empathy is the best way to address other people, the speakers said, adding that the empathizer doesn’t have to agree with someone to validate their feelings.
The speakers encouraged attendees to think of a situation where they had been in conflict with someone, and then asked them to dig deeper: What need wasn’t being fulfilled that made them feel such a way? Feelings and judgments are symptoms of needs not being met, and it is important to be aware of what needs aren’t being met to resolve a conflict, the speakers said.
Turiel said, in an interview, that she hopes this seminar will empower the attendees to start a ripple effect through the community to make Durango a more sensitive place for people of different backgrounds.
“We have a lot of conflict in our world,” she said. “The biggest issue is we don’t have the tools to have these dialogues.”
Tom Miller said Saturday’s seminar was the third Diversity Dialogue session he has attended since moving to Durango in 2011. He is a retired management psychologist, and the event suggested we often have more in common than not, he said.
“It’s a reminder to me of the importance of community building, building commonality and being aware of the commonality amongst generations,” Miller said.
Narissa Anderson, 18, said she attended as an extension of her work with the Prejudice Elimination Action Team at Durango High School.
“It’s important to just sit and meditate and think of all the perspectives you can,” she said.
Hazel Seashore-Botha, 12, daughter to Gretchen Seashore and André Botha, said she participated as a speaker because she likes being part of the community.
“I want to be in a space where we can empower each other and empower ourselves,” Hazel said.