Doing Dialogue

The Not/Knot Issue

June 9, 2017

The words ‘not’ and ‘knot’ are tied.

Conflict is drenched in layers of assumptions, misperceptions, fight or flight, history and traffic jams. These situations will form a knot: A knot in the stomach, a knot in the hair, a knot in the air. During these moments we might feel we want to take action, use ancient curse words, carry the mission through and throw darts at (what seems to be) the obvious target. Origins of conflict can be as simple as one parent telling a child ‘not’ to do something, and the other parent showing a child how to tie and untie a ‘knot’. We grow up and old to operate on the assumption that we can always successfully decode both ‘not’ and ‘knot’ differently. But are they really different words? Might a bird be also a plane?

On the other side of the word-continuum, untying a knot can be as curious as saying ‘not’: Not to do something. Not to talk to a stranger. Not to eat the whole bar of chocolate just because it’s Friday, 4:36pm, and you know there’s gonna be traffic. And you’re finally back home, and in the middle of an evening walk, and in the sole of your shoe, wrapped in security are those moments that ‘knot’ and ‘not’ become one.

The oldest form of communication and storytelling is talking. So it might be that the oldest form of war is not talking. Because in the turmoil of conflict, dialogue can untie the knots. Talking and sharing can help us to not let the best of ourselves unravel into a pile of rough twine, not pull the emergency bar, not crumple up like last week’s milk container in the recycling bin. In the end, we can use words with their appropriate, beautiful and illustrative meanings, and talk our way out of any knot.

Moments, like words, are time stamped, and we will take whatever associations they have that our precious brains allow. Dialogue might be just be the most super-heroine way of solving the knot/not issue.

You may have understood this story, or knot.

Teja joined Essential Partners in April, 2017. He brings a thirty-year combined experience as a PBS documentary producer, professor of media/communications and race & ethnic relations, diversity and inclusion trainer and public speaker. He has an Emmy Award and three Telly Awards for social issues PBS documentaries, and is the author of four books about race and culture. He started his company, Entertaining Diversity, Inc. in 1992, to teach issues of racism through entertainment. Teja is African-American/Filipino and German, and grew up in Japan, has traveled through many countries and has been a keynote speaker in over 1,200 locations around the US. Telling stories that build bridges between many perspectives has always been his mission in life and work.