Three situations and a question.

This past Sunday I was enjoying a lively dinner with dear old friends when someone raised the firestorm over same-sex issues in The Episcopal Church. One friend, an associate pastor in another denomination, made some claims about the actions of the U.S. church that I (being an Episcopalian and way too familiar with the controversy) found somewhat inaccurate. Keep in mind, there’s exactly six people in the room, no response from me will change the course of the issue, and we’ll all continue to love one another regardless.

Speak or shut up?

Another old friend and I were sharing our approaches to depression. Her case was far more severe but now largely in the past, thanks to her brand of faith; mine is more or less chronic, and I’ve picked up some wisdom on living with it. During an email exchange, she expressed her concern that my way is less than best. I shared the lessons I’ve learned and the benefits I’ve reaped. She persisted. We reached an impasse.

Continue the dialogue or shut up?

In my other blog, I posted some thoughts on the “Ground Zero mosque” conflict. It took me forever to do so, because my convictions on this are strong: I had difficulty even considering the other side—and considering the other side is pretty much the job description for a guy who writes about dialogue. The post ended up suggesting a way forward for both sides to find common ground.

Did I do well to speak up (or “write up,” as it were)? Should I have spoken up sooner, when my emotions were hot?

This, for me, is perhaps the most daunting aspect of living the way of dialogue. The decisions are somewhat clearer in formal dialogue, when you gather with others for the same expressed purpose. Far murkier are the everyday situations—especially when, in conversation, decisions have to be made quickly, and it’s unclear what the others expect from the exchange.

There probably are principles we can use. For one thing, it really helps to be mindful: fully present to the conversation/situation at all times, gauging where it’s headed, listening for relationship dynamics, paying total attention to others’ words. That’s a key to turning conversation into dialogue. As for other principles, I’m really not sure.

I can tell you what I did in each of these situations, but I’m way more interested in what you would have done—or how you’ve handled similar situations. Thoughts?