Doing Dialogue

In The Wake of Disruption

May 19, 2017

As your car approaches that pothole you spotted ahead, you brace yourself. You give yourself a moment of forgiveness (to yourself) and maybe a curse to the road. It’s not your fault, you convince yourself, it came up so quickly. The moment the tire enters the chasm of despair, the wheel dips, dropping like lead toward the center of the earth, gravity’s success in reminding you that nothing’s perfect. A loud thud. Your car jolts and even in your cushioned seat you wonder how it ever got to this, because when you focus again on what’s in front of you, there’s traffic.

Oh, you could blame the state, the town, taxpayers like yourself, the contractors, the weather, lack of sleep, other drivers. Clearly your coffee spilled a drop or two on your seat, now part of the kingdom of stains in your once-was sanctuary. So you blame the car salesman who promised you that the stain protection program would keep the car feeling like brand new. You even pre-blame the repair guy for what he’s going to charge you for repairing your car.

You finally get to work, tepid coffee cup in one hand, iPhone in the other. You wish there was an unhappy-day-blame-it-on-someone-else app that would erase all the obstacles that lay in your wake.

But you’re at work. You’re alive. And yet as you pour more coffee into your cup, you blather on about the pothole. Your colleagues nod and sip their coffees. They share their own pothole stories, traffic, weather, lack of sleep, other drivers, their towns and who to blame. What you’ve come to believe is that it’s just crumbled asphalt that once was just like yourself - worryless.

In the wake of everything that disconnects, it’s easy to miss the breathtaking moments of clarity. The impact of the ingredients the divide are equally balanced with the opportunities to connect. What we can learn from gravity, potholes, cold coffee and the everyday-everyday, are the short moments of conversational contact that brings it all into perspective. Because tomorrow the pothole will most likely still be there, and maybe you can guide the break-room conversation to get others to recognize where the real pain comes from. How really is your day? How’s the family? What’s really going on? Slow down on Eastern Ave just before Maple, there’s a pothole there.

Talk it up. Talk it over. Dialogue bridges the most difficult of disruptions.

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.