Conflict is inevitable in a large community, especially one full of people who are so passionate about the world around them.
This week’s Community Time focused on conflict and how to engage in healthy discussion. The Resident Advisors planned a series of statements that were projected onto screens and addressed important topics relating to life in college.
In the open space of the room, we were asked to either stand at one end of the room by an “Agree” sign or at the opposite end by a “Disagree” sign. If we were unsure of our opinion, we were welcome to stand in the middle.
At first the sentences were very personal but fairly straightforward:
I am honest.
I am open-minded.
I am tolerant.
Knowing yourself and coming to a quick decision as to where to go in the room was the initial challenge.
After having an understanding of the activity, the next sentences put on the screen were purposely vague and open for interpretation. In addition, the statements focused on more controversial ideas. Here are a few of them:
I think going to parties is integral to building relationships.
I think experimentation is integral to the college experience.
I think it is harder to be a man than it is to be a woman.
I think that an understanding of God is crucial when doing service.
The use of language was significant in the exercise and truly shaped your opinion of the statement. For example, “experimentation” could be understood in numerous ways. One person could think it means exploring new classes or interests while another could interpret it as experimenting with drugs or alcohol.
As the microphone was passed around the room, we heard from community members who opened up by sharing their thoughts on the statements and why they chose to agree, disagree or remain undecided. While listening to each other and thinking about the statements from a different point of view, we could chose to move to the other side of the room if we changed our minds.
Because the statements were written in the first person, a very personal approach was taken with the activity. We each have unique experiences that shape who we are and the way we think, making us feel strongly about certain issues but open for new ideas relating to other topics.
After over an hour of commotion and engaging discussion, the three final statements gave us the opportunity to once again move to a position on either side of the room but also reflect on our evening:
I am surprised.
I am moved.
I am uncomfortable.
To end the evening, we watched a video interview with Fr. Roc O’Connor, who shared his thoughts on discomfort and joy.
By stepping outside our comfort zone, we learned a great deal about each other, not only in the ways we are different but also how we are the same. Even if we disagree, we know that we are motivated by the desire to be our best selves and change the world.
As we spend the semester learning about social justice issues, disagreements will be expected, so listening to community members and respecting their opinions will help us build a stronger Cortina community.