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The Power of Dialogues and Conversations  in Violent Times – The Article We Would Never Want to Write

Yesterday, there has been a tragic event in Stockholm, Sweden, where we have our base. Today, we were supposed to write a completely different kind of article, covering how the Swedish Fika and the Argentinian Mate can be used as mediators for a good conversation.

Police – Three dead and several wounded after the truck attack

But, since yesterday, reality has hit us hard. A stolen truck, driven by its hijackers, crashed into a store in Drottningatan, killing at least 4 people and hurting many others.

How does a thing like this happen? How does a human being go crazy enough to inflict such damage on other humans? We strongly believe this is not an out-of-the-blue, sudden behavior; but a set of thinking, feeling and acting that goes back in time beyond action itself. We believe this or these people, the perpetrators, have thought, said and warned others in their way to killing innocent people out of their hate and despair.

And we also believe the ones around did nothing to stop them. Not because they were indolent, or uninterested. They did nothing because as occident culture participants, they have been busy in their own life, holding tight to their own ideas, focused stubbornly into their goals, dreams and business. Even when their ideas include social change, consciousness or justice, the practices of those idealized concepts is shown to be very far from the theories. We do not want to be interrupted, we avoid cognitive dissonance at all costs, and we shut down anybody who would dare to challenge our self-centered points of view. “Winners don’t listen to other people, they go for their goals”. Such is the message our culture spreads.

“The biggest communication problem is that most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” —Stephen R. Covey.

Maybe we do believe in our hearts that our purpose in life is helping others, contribute to this planet somehow, imprinting a positive impact in our societies. That is absolutely legitimate and honorable. But truth must be expressed: We are far from practicing behaviors that lead to the carry-out of such ideas. Something is missing along the way.

In this sad day, writing an article about communication has a very different meaning and flavor. We would like to reflect together, if possible, about the role that the process of communication has in these shocking events.

Before the physical violence, many specialists agree, comes the violence of words. We have previously developed the importance that everyday dialogue holds as a building tool for a second language. Now we would like to stop and think about the part it has in the construction of a more peaceful, inclusive, and fair society.

Words hold a power in themselves. They shape our understanding of the world. They become as a filter glass through external and internal reality, and, beyond the semantic reach; the emotions surrounding words have a deep impact in our (and others’!) state of mind.

When violence breaks in, the way it has yesterday, the first question that arises is “why”. Why would someone perform any acts of cruelty upon other fellow humans? We search for rational causes, we try to draw the cause-consequence lines to the other violent events occurring in the world (namely, Syria’s horrible bombing, or some earlier incidents as Paris or Nice attacks). But the simple rational analysis won’t do. We will surely be left unsatisfied by only taking that account. Something, once again, is missing on the way.

What is this “something”? Some seek into political causes, others into cultural factors, even others make their attempt in the arena of religious beliefs.

We will gather around the concept we were developing before the madness started. We will make our best attempt to analyze this phenomenon from the point of view of Communication and Everyday Dialogue, and its multiple implications on the emergence of violence.

Violence in Communication:

How can we define violent communication?

Violent communication is communication that limits liberty, denies recognition of needs, diminishes the worth of a person, and/or blocks compassion and empathy. Violent communication is often the result of using manipulative or coercive language that induces fear, guilt, shame, praise, blame, duty, obligation, punishment, and/or reward.

In the backstage of this kind of communication, there is a symbolic fight for power. In the work of Pierre Bourdieu, symbolic violence denotes more than a form of violence operating symbolically. It is “the violence which is exercised upon a social agent with his or her complicity” (Bourdieu and Wacquant 2002, 167).

The most important issue in this topic is that this level of violence takes place in speaking and listening (and in thinking, through self-talk or imagined conversations).

…Yes . In our conversations, indeed.

But it is certainly not easy to connect such a tragic, coward attack like the one Stockholm faced yesterday, with our (supposedly) simple, innocuous, powerless conversations…The delicate string connecting those two events is not so visible, right? How can our dialogues, opinions, even arguments, generate such damage? We might discuss a topic, but even the most excited of dialogues is far from an act of terror or any attack over others.

Of course. That is true: a conversation has never killed anybody. It takes so much more than some words to put a criminal mind into action.

Whether we subscribe to the Criminology of “natural born killers”, or a more culturally-oriented perspective, most of us agree in the complexity of factors that play a role in the eruption of killing behaviors. It is never simple, linear, or mono-causal.

Nonetheless, it is interesting to notice that maybe, as a plant needs sun and water to survive, some potentially violent people get their fuel and nurturance from a twisted system of communication. It is the conversations we take part on, the way we speak to each other, the words we use, and ultimately, the ability to express our not-so-constructive emotions and feelings with restrictions and some level of empathy; the tokens we take on the ride to escalating violence.

Violence, evolutionarily speaking, is not a “disease” but an adaptive response:

“The assumption that violence is a disease is to make it the analog of diarrhea. But, what if it is in fact an analog of digestion, or of some subprocess like metabolization, ingestion, or excretion? There is no future, in this case, in looking for its ’causes’ since it doesn’t have any. It is just what the organism does as part of its routine of living.” – Robin Fox.

What makes violence so un-understandable in our human societies? The fact that we do have an “interface” device, which is language, as a mediator between the thoughts and the actions. We all feel the drive to be angry, offended, or plainly mad at circumstances, or at other people. But we have grown enough, both individually and as a society, to not pass directly our feelings into action (except for the case of non-adapted individuals). It is heartbreaking, therefore, when words fail to contain the dam of the revolted emotions and impulses.

 

How can dialogues and conversations help on the problem of social violence?

There are many approaches that follow the same pattern, consisting basically in stopping the circle of violence from the communication field. Usually they focus on compassion, empathy and some content-oriented strategies that foster a different style of conversation, based on respect and tolerance.

Among these efforts, “Nonviolent Communication” (NVC) is a communication process developed by Marshall Rosenberg, Ph.D., back in the 1960s, sometimes also referred to as “compassionate communication.”

Nonviolent communication is defined as communication that maximizes liberty, enhances understanding of the relationship between feelings and needs, promotes equality, and creates compassion.

NVC involves understanding that our feelings are a result of our basic human needs being met or unmet. When our needs are met, we feel “positive” emotions, such as joy, delight, confidence, inspiration, etc. When our needs are unmet, we feel “negative” emotions, such as annoyance, tension, fatigue, yearning, etc.

Basic human needs are similar to those in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: physical well-being, connection, honesty, play, peace, autonomy, meaning, etc. They are basic human needs that we all share, as opposed to specific actions we would like others to take.

A basic human need is to contribute to our own and others’ well- being. Using nonviolent communication increases the likelihood of mutual giving and receiving because it helps us recognize and foster the joy we feel when we meet our basic human need of contributing to our own and others’ well-being.

 

How does this work in everyday conversations?

The most essential way that NVC occurs is through expressing the link between a person’s feelings and needs or our own feelings and needs, thus, we could say:

  • Are you feeling _________ because you need ___________?
  • I am feeling __________ because I need __________.

(At the intrapersonal level, we can also understand ourselves better and work through our emotional experiences more effectively by asking ourselves, “Am I feeling __________ because I need ___________?” – That gives us the foundations for a better connection with the feelings of other people)

Two things are important to note:

  1. Anger is a feeling usually associated with violent communication, like blaming the other person . Underlying the anger are usually other feelings such as sadness, disappointment, regret, and frustration. Focusing on these feelings may help identify the underlying needs more quickly.
  2. “Feelings” such as threatened, stupid, pretty, ridiculous, generous, betrayed, and industrious are actually intellectual evaluations instead of emotion-based feelings. And Non Violent Communication works best when you are discussing feelings instead of evaluations.

Once everyone’s needs are identified, the problem-solving can begin. Similar to interest-based bargaining, problem-solving with everyone’s needs on the table can result in win-win solutions.

This is only one of the registered tools for a culture free of violence. The principles are universal and apply for many other social situations that involve communication. ( …For further information, contact the Center for Nonviolent Communication on the web: https://www.cnvc.org )

 

Some other practical principles we have learnt along the way:

At e.MindSet, we have worked at many levels into communication; including the training of ESL, inmates’ rehabilitation programs, job searching quests, human resources management, behavioral therapy, and project management.

Our careers have allowed us to be in touch with diverse cultures and different people, and we have developed skills that encouraged us beyond our limitations. “Learning is never a one way road”; we know that very well, and in these troubled times, we intend to grow through the experience not only overcoming the sadness and fear, but also taking knowledge and wisdom of the situation, for the purpose of serving others beyond theories and slogans…ultimately, for the love of people, including ourselves.

So, here are some practical tips we have found, to make things easy and keep the win-win flowing:

  • First of all, listen openly, listen eagerly, listen to learn, and listen most to the things that provoke some discomfort. There is richness there, on those words. Stop all judgement and “extra-thinking”, and listen. It is a rare skill these times, but the good news is that it can (and must) be trained.
  • Get a supervisor. We mutually supervise our cases, our conversations with the clients, with classmates, staff, and superiors (i.e, professors at doctorate). “Four eyes see more than two”, and not only more, but we access a wider, better perspective.
  • Avoid binary questions when asking. The questions that only allow “yes” or “no” for an answer are inadequate for grasping the real thoughts and emotions that a person can express in a conversation. They also force (even involuntarily) our interlocutor to “take sides”, which is a root cause in the raise of symbolic violence.
  • Be honest without rudeness. There is always a better way to say things than the way our emotions dictate. Look for that other way. Practice patience towards yourself and others.
  • Be sensitive but not emotionally-driven. The world is not your stage and the spotlight should be shared among fellow humans, not everything is about our own feelings. In the same way, avoid “equating” (meaning, do not compare the other person’s experience with yours. For example, if they lost a member of their family, do not go around telling them about a similar experience you had. It is not necessary, it is self referential, and people deserve to be respected in their uniqueness)
  • Be respectful of boundaries. People have them for a reason. Maybe past experiences have molded them in that way, and it is a good thing to test the limits. But mostly, be gentle and wait for others to open up…remember, trust is built, not forced.
  • When faced to an inconvenient truth, wait until the reaction settles in order to give a constructive response. Action and not reaction is essential for a better communication. Most specially, remember our perspective is not the ultimate parameter to read reality.
  • In presence of definitely rude, disruptive, or attacking participants, use detachment strategies instead of emotional mirroring. It is better to openly admit you are overwhelmed by their behavior, and retreat, than engage in a road-to-nowhere that ends in escalating violence.
  • Last, but not least…be brief. Expose your points of view and opinions, but do not hoard other people’s time. Being brief and specific also trains you to improve your point by being parsimonious, and reduces misunderstanding. Try not to repeat yourself. If you have a good point, it will stand alone without the need of condescendingly parroting your own ideas. Be respectful of others’ time. Everybody has something amazing to offer into a conversation, be honestly interested in that, and (at least in our experience) you will get enriched beyond your ability to imagine.

Enjoy life, stay safe, remember how beautiful this world is…and most of all, never stop learning. We wish all of our friends and family in Stockholm the blessing that comes from peace, the peace that we can, and will, build high for our city and generations.

Kind regards,

Christer Edman & Veronica Rebora at www.emindsetlab.com

Everyday Dialogue as a Learning Tool

Some initial, contextualized thoughts to solve on ESL learning – Our Experience in Argentina:

In our perspective, languages are human products that follow the dynamics of living systems, rather than academic contents.

Most people who are willing to learn a second language (ESL = English as a Second Language), in our Argentinean experience, are pushed by the market or the academia requirements to do so. Many of them believe (with all due right) that a second language adds better opportunities in a difficult job-seeking scenario, or in the tough arena of academic competence.

But there are also those who literally enjoy the experience of learning for fun, travelling, starting new friendships and increasing their social competences. They have been the minority, but fortunately, tide is changing…and the best thing we have noticed, is that even the first “under-stress” group usually starts changing their minds regards English, and instead of considering the ESL as a stressing, boring educational requirement, once they see the new world opening in front of them, relax and take joy in the path of communication skills learning.

What creates that initial, distorted vision of ESL? We’ve identified some factors, among those…

  • The way in which licensed English teachers are trained
  • High school English competitions are taught in a very old fashioned, mechanistic system
  • Social factors including misconceptions about English (i.e, English speakers are snob, English is difficult to learn, even English is “yankee” thing!)
  • An impoverished situation of general Education in the country, that not only leads the outcome to lower levels in the polls, but, deeper inside, promotes a culture in which learning is not so necessary, and discourages the attitudes towards learning in its whole.

How Dialogue became a source for overcoming those obstacles:

From structured academia to living language…Dialogue is the perfect interface for making the qualitative breakthrough

As we stated above, we’ve observed in most cases a shift in these misconceptions while our students approach our courses. They usually occur during the attendance of LevelUp©, and it means a strong positive difference afterwards.

In simple words, our dear students start a new comprehension of English…as a communication tool. An instrument that would allow them to express their ideas and thoughts, and access other’s worlds. They no longer focus on grammar skills (which are very important, of course) but they move their focus into communicating “as effectively as they might”, that’s our favorite line to encourage them. Everything changes from that point on.

Learners engage better, become more active, the workshops turn into great learning situations for everybody (including the trainer!), and learning curves increase.

We ascribe that success to the similarity between the natural progression of the learning of the mother language: nobody learns to speak inside a classroom, with a notebook on their hands!

#EverydayDialogue – The Theories Behind: We understand people’s engagement through psychological variables that mainly include the opportunity to (literally) “function” – in a second language – in everyday life. Regardless the topic, we all enjoy sharing meaning and content with our friends, family, and neighbors. In our courses, we have covered from football preferences until cooking recipes, and many other interesting things in between, and always noticed the same outcome: increased attention, involvement and focus, and a gritting wish to express what learners have to say.

In our point of view, it is impossible to achieve such engagement without “modelling” it (Bandura, Social Learning Theory, 1977). That means we also “jump into the waters” of dialogue, we express our ideas and opinions, and we create a communicational synergy together with learners. It is our strong belief that there are no NLP tips or manipulation strategies that work better than just being honestly ourselves. If we are truly expressing what we want to say, then the others (in this case, ESL learners) will also do so, or tend to do so.

Ragnar Rommetveit (a 92 years-old, talented Norwegian Psychologist, specialized on Language, Learning and Communication) states a proposal for approaching everyday dialogue that criticizes the traditional, experimentalist, and individualist research. He understands (as we do) dialogue as an experience sharing. What do we share in a dialogue? Interactively- established meaning and understanding. And all of this is mediated by language. (Rommetveit, 1970)

Towards a Psychology (and Pedagogy) of the Second Person: Getting involved is mandatory!

He argues that, instead of the experimental, 3rd-person standpoint; we should approach the study of dialogues “from within”, from a Psychology of the Second Person…meaning involving ourselves and the interaction with others. He proposes to focus on:

  • Intersubjectivity
  • Perspectivity, and perspective relativity
  • The meaning potential of utterances, and
  • The epistemic responsibility of interlocutors

Intuitively, we have done so during our courses. We now are committed to in-detail document the whole experience to serve as evidence over this theoretical background, for we believe in a continuous dialogue between doing and thinking, giving and receiving, and since this development is about dialogue…ultimately, speaking and listening.

For more information regarding Rommetveit’s work, consult the Journal of Psycholinguistic Research: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10936-015-9404-0

Stay in touch for next article, covering practical tips for better conversations (…in a small peak advance, it includes tips on a good Swedish Fika and Argentinean Mate!)

Regards,

Christer Edman & Veronica Rebora at www.emindsetlab.com

ExamWeekTraining – Creating Exam Muscles

How to deploy practical strategies for good performance on tests

There is a good strategy for creating “mental muscles”: putting your notes together by asking (yourself) lots of questions, answering those questions to train your exam situation, and then moving on the original material (book, video, etc.) to save your notes just until the day of the exam; when they serve as a high-impact reminder.

THEORY AND ACTION: Building a Theoretical Background is an Action Process

Building a Theoretical Background is an Action Process:

The current onset of occidental culture has become somehow chaotic and confuse. While we go through our screens every day, we find an enormous amount of information and data and no matter how focused we think we are, that data stays with us in our perception system and makes us somewhat distracted.

Don’t get us wrong here…we love the Internet, and we believe this is a time of revolutionary opportunities, especially in the field of Education and Science. Everything is available at the same time. We get unlimited access to courses, conferences, seminars (now webinars) and programs that would have taken years of investing and travelling and mailing to make possible.

The question that rules this article is “How do we get to navigate such a wide data ocean without sinking, or getting distracted with every ‘temptation island’ we find in our ways?”

Here at eMindSet, we believe the navigation instruments depend purely on you, your values, your goals and your specific needs.

compass

Whether you are looking for a 2LT (Second Language Training) or trying to improve your #CommunicationSkills, or give your work life an extra lift by educating yourself in the new technologies and #Networking…It is you the Captain and Sailor, it is your own GPS we need to adjust to, and it is your quest the one we encourage.

#MetacognitiveActivities are performed at eMindSet in daily basis, to ensure every one of us are  sailing in the direction of our dreams, goals, and milestones.

We will cover the issue following, explaining how a good strong theoretical scaffold gave us the foundation for building eMindSet #LearningPrograms and why is it so important to invest time in developing your own, in spite of what the production system seems to preach (“keep doing, keep going, only philosophers dedicate time to think about these things”). We do believe the best choice we have is reflecting on the road, learning our roots while we walk, and having a permanent theory+practice dialogue.

Theories and the Fallacy of Philosophy as a Waste of Time

Let’s imagine for a moment that, instead of a 2LT, what we want to perform together is building the house of our dreams. We have the land, the budget is clear, and the workers are ready and waiting in line. We have the plans and we start working accordingly to it. It starts to look amazing, the outside colors match the landscape, and suddenly…an earthquake shakes the ground.

We don’t need tons of imagination to know what happened to our dreamhouse, right?

Because the earth is a living thing, architects and engineers know very well about the importance of building both a good foundation on bottom, and a solid scaffold around the work-in-progress. Now, languages are living things too. What makes us think otherwise?

Culture. Culture makes us think otherwise. We have such an influence from the Industrial Revolution, that we have ended up associating the figure of the “Philosopher” with a Greek marble man sitting in contemplation, speculating about life.

Here at eMindSet, we have discovered that, on the contrary of popular beliefs, reflecting and thinking thoroughly about our theoretical scaffold and foundations, give us the opportunity to work better, faster, and in a more efficient way. In our theoretical structures, we find excellent solutions for everyday challenges, we get a smooth ground in which we “walk the talk”, and we also know our walking enriches and deepens the theories that sustain our activities. Because it is nothing but a permanent Theory+Practice interchange!

Theory and practice interchange

We have based our foundations in Behaviorism and Cognitive Neuroscience since the beginning of eMindSet Learning Programs, and we have gone further in the discovering and adopting of every improvement that allows us to get closer to our main goal: Helping others develop their best potential and learning skills, whether in a Second Language Training process, a Job Finding quest, or a Cognitive+Behavioral Modifying program that would allow individuals a better outcome in their personal, interpersonal, and social areas.

So no, we say. Theories are never a waste of time…Except when they don’t meet action. When this happens, and everything becomes just words and speculation, we go off the track that leads us to #mindsetters goals.

navigator

If we considered the first metaphor about navigation system, we could conclude that “there is nothing more annoying than the voice of GPS in a car that is not moving!”

Introduction to eMindSet Theoretical Scaffold

What about us? What is our theoretical framework, the scaffold in which we rely in order to help you develop your learning process?

We would like to change this question. We would like to experiment in the same way we experiment and learn together.

Since “this” is our style, we will only name the theories on which we have based our practices, so you get the opportunity to learn more about them on the Internet or any other resources available. We have previously developed some points about RFT (Relational Frame Theory, S.C.Hayes et al, 2001); and we’ll soon discuss the beautiful derivations of SLT (Social Learning Theory, A.Bandura, 1977). But there are many other previous and further developments that have helped us build knowledge on solid and reliable foundation.

As we’ve stated, our concepts of Learning lie on Skinner’s studies on Operant Conditioning, specifically regarding Verbal Behavior (1957), but we have found great richness in the dialogue between this author and Noam Chomsky (1965) with his LAD (Language Acquisition Device). Some consider these points of view as divergent, we think they are beautifully complementary.

The concept of “Affordances” proposed by Gibson in the field of Ecological Psychology (1979) has allowed us to overcome the Theory of the Mind towards a (perhaps more humble, but nonetheless effective) concept of Language Development that holds a strong Social component in every side of the phenomenon. The following developments, regarding human+computer interaction, and firstly proposed by Gaver‘s seminal articles on technology affordance in 1991, and then Bradner‘s notion of social affordance, have been of enormous help.

Theoretical background

As natural in this dynamic, open framework, we have included some new contributions from DST (Dialogical Self Theory, H.Hermans, 1992), from Teun Van Dijk’s incredible article on Context, Cognition and Knowledge Frames (1977); and a brilliant brand-new article by authors J.Decety and J.M.Cowell (2016) in the Neuroscience of Empathy and Morals is being taken into account.

These are only some samples, from our own experience, that aim to set an example on how a theoretical structure (consisting of concepts, theories, values and collective core beliefs) can help us unfold better practices in this complex, ultra-wired, hyper-connected new world.

Here at eMindSet we are aware that science has not all the answers for human existence, but it offers a great chance called “stay humble, test our hypothesis, remain open for more, trust the process”. Because it is never dogmatic, because it is always open to change, because it questions and tests the limits of understanding, and because we must rely on what others have done before us to keep moving forward in the quest for learning.

We do not believe in panaceas nor do we offer the ultimate solution for your needs.

But definitely, we are in favor of learning together.

Veronica Rebora & Christer Edman – April 2016

Are there any advantages on procedural vs conceptual learning?

No, both are needed!

“A playful mind is inquisitive, and learning is fun. If you indulge your natural curiosity and retain a sense of fun in new experience, I think you’ll find it functions as a sort of shock absorber for the bumpy road ahead.” (Bill Watterson – July 5, 1958 – American cartoonist and the author of the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes)

We are the children and learning

Conceptual knowledge is built on theories and lectures and procedural is built on experiences. We need both for learning! A cognitive load is constantly flooding our nervous system with information and if we are successful we can hope a percentage remain of it. In learning we want to get as much control as possible of the information flow for being effective.

conceptual and procedurial learning tools

The conceptual knowledge is the answer for WHAT passive and theoretical theories, ideas, models and definitions we are receiving and need.

conceptual learning in practise

The procedural knowledge is the active part and tells HOW we are applying the concepts. It is when we are mastering our memory we know our ability for learning is on top.

procedurial learning children

Flipped Classroom

flipp

Some of the latest knowledge related to learning is the flipped classroom. This is when we use the conceptual knowledge before applying the procedural learning with our teachers. It is the most efficient learning since the students prepare individually before the lessons. They spend only time together on the procedural learning to master the skills/knowledge.

http://bayantwopointoh.blogspot.se/2013/08/conceptual-vs-procedural-knowledge.html

 The acquisition of morphological skill in adults

what we remember

Non-Linguistic skill memory generation are manifest in language skill acquisition. Two independent neural systems subserve long-term memory; the declarative and procedural memory systems.

Declarative novel events and facts (WHAT)

Procedural learning and retention of skills (HOW TO)

Artificial Morphological Rule “AMR”

AMR coincided accuracy and initiated a phase of fluency (Proceduralization). Different stages use procedural and declarative memory for mastering skilled linguistic performance.

Explicit learning relates to the making and testing of hypothesis in a search for structure…

Result suggests that the phonological aspect of a morphological rule is learned implicity and retained as procedural memory and that the acquisition of the semantic aspect of the rule requires an explicit learning making use of the declarative memory. This is consistent with the notion that the phonological aspect of a word (lexical item) is acquired implicity and it’s meaning aspect is acquired explicitly.

DYNAMIC INTERACTION ⇒ Procedural and Declarative Memory
=
Acquisition of morphological proficiency

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0911604408000870

Looking forward to hear from you,

Christer Edman & Veronica Rebora

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