Conversations to Promote Peace in Times of Fear 3/4: Bystanders and Encouragement

Bystanders are people who have a basically tolerant worldview and a peaceful agenda but don’t speak up much.

They may be afraid of the social repercussions of speaking up, especially if they are part of a cultural group that values avoiding conflict. They may not have the language to do so and feel afraid of stating their argument incorrectly or offensively. They may just have different priorities, for example environmental protection, and not be very well-versed in global issues.

For example, take the cultural context I grew up in: white middle-class Georgia. There is a strong cultural pressure to be nice and pleasant. People avoid actions and conversations that could make someone feel uncomfortable. There is an emphasis on public hospitality and friendliness but a good deal of gossip, too. Few know about the middle path between “nice” and “mean.”

This is a group in which you will find many bystanders.

What sort of conversations can you have?

This is a group that greatly benefits from seeing friends and family members promote peace in a respectful, calm, and effective way. They see that you can talk about peace without insulting or losing your temper.

This is a group that is also receptive to fact-based reasoning and learning. Since they are in a calm state of mind, they are able to think about the issues on a logical and an emotional plane at the same time.

These are also people with whom you should be having private conversations when they would feel safe in expressing views. The goal of the conversation isn’t to persuade the person to your way of thinking. Instead, the goal is to learn from each other, fully explore the issues, and create a sense of solidarity. Another use of this time is to teach your friend about the language that is generally considered to be nonviolent and inclusive.

One more to go! Tomorrow is all about conversations to support each other.



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