Let’s Have Coffee

It seems like we’ve lost the ability to listen without judgment in America. Rather than create safe spaces for conversation, we’re creating caged octagons that are rude, cruel, hurtful, disrespectful, and undignified. If you’re reading this, I’d like to challenge you to do something. If you’re game, then try it and share it with others.

Invite someone to have coffee with you every week. Implicit to that invitation is also conversation. Coffee and conversation. Weekly, create a diverse mix of counterparts from those that share your worldview and those that do not. Imagine if everyone in America did this with the goals of listening without judgment and creating a safe space for conversation. I suspect if we did that, we would carve out a civil path forward for dignified discourse and behavior.

Everything breaks down without trust. Conversations, relationships, families, teams, businesses, and communities. What I’m talking about here is vulnerability-based trust, which means you’re comfortable being open, comfortable being transparent, comfortable asking any question, comfortable stating what you believe without being attacked, and comfortable being uncomfortable. Vulnerability-trust enables healthy conflict, i.e. healthy, civil, dignified conversations where parties don’t agree, but can talk through their differences. They can ultimately agree to disagree wherever they cannot gain alignment. In these situations, the trust-gap is bridged and only the opinion-gap remains. It’s ok to have opinion-gaps, but trust-gaps devolve into anarchy.

The skill of listening without judgement is not easy. It requires intention and training. A good place to start is to study tactical empathy. Tactical empathy is the act of understanding another persons’ mindset and feelings and making them feel understood. A good place to start is to visit The Black Swan Group’s website and become a student of their approach to “negotiating.” Don’t misunderstand the true meaning of that word. Everything in life is a negotiation. Here’s a good piece written by founder, Chris Voss: How to Use FBI Empathy. If you’re intrigued, then you can also read his book, Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depended On It.

For those of us who are Christians, nothing is more important than to become skilled at listening without judgement. It’s an uphill battle because there is a perception that we are very judgmental. The perception is warranted. However, have hope. A January 2023 study by Barna shows there is a rising spiritual openness in America. Therefore, the issue is not the tenets of our faith, but rather our approach. Non-believers don’t want talking points to be more open to our faith. Rather, they simply want us to listen to what they have to say without judgement. Let’s commit to creating safe spaces for conversation for everyone by leading by example.

If we bridge the trust-gap with the Fruit of the Spirit character qualities that Jesus modeled, then we will create more openness for people to hear the message of Christ. Let’s move 1% forward each week by having coffee with our brothers and sisters to listen to what they have to say.

In closing, as I wrote this piece, I was reminded of a cartoon I loved as a child. It’s from the Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour from Looney Tunes. Ralph Wolf and Sam Sheepdog, while battling in the arena at their day job, always found a way to be friends at the end of the day. If you’ve never seen this, then I hope you enjoy it. If you have, but it’s been a while, then may it be a nostalgic moment.

Published by Marc Casciani

Bridging brothers & sisters to what's important. Author of Craft Your Calling. Host of the Neighborly Love podcast.

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