Blog Roundup – June
It’s been a busy month at IFYC. We recently wrapped up one of our summer Interfaith Leadership Institutes (ILIs) in Chicago, and are heading off to Philadelphia for our next one in a few weeks.
I’m looking forward to spending time in Philly, but the ILI will be bittersweet for me. It’s my last one with IFYC, as I’m moving to Italy at the end of September to work as an English teaching assistant in a high school in Milan. After August, I’ll no longer be the creeper in the back of the training room; instead, I’ll be living in a country whose tensions around interfaith and immigration Tim Brauhn details on our blog this month.
A friend of mine, upon learning that I’d be teaching English in Italy, lent me a booked called The Social Styles, which is all about interpersonal interaction. Within the first few pages, the book lays out a remarkable piece of data: only 7% of the effectiveness of communication comes from the meaning of the words we use.
Which got me thinking: if so much of communication doesn’t involve words, how do you effectively communicate online, where words are all you have? For instance, how can I convey sass without malice in 140 characters on Twitter?
This month on our blog, Josh Stanton raised similar questions about translating personal interfaith stories in an online context. My own reflections this month led me back to a piece by Carr Harkrader on the importance of empathy. When interfaith relationships are fraught enough when based on interpersonal contact, how do we navigate those same difficulties, and build the kind of empathy we need for meaningful interfaith relationships, online?
In part, I think we need to apply the same “safe space” rules we establish in the training room to the spaces we occupy online. Imagine how much more civil the Internet as a whole would be if we brought to it the same respect and active listening that we afford everyone when discussing faith in a sensitive context.
Many people lament that the Internet has become an echo chamber that reinforces conflict and close-mindedness rather than breaking them down. Maybe, despite all the limitations of the World Wide Web, we can still carve out spaces for respect, learning, and genuine, meaningful relationships.
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