One of the things I remember most from high school is a class discussion on argumentation—more specifically, the problem of opposing yet-unstated premises in a discussion. It is one of the things that I keep in mind during disagreements—asking myself what are the underlying assumptions and beliefs from which the points in an argument might be flowing, and checking those with the other person (and finding out how supported they are by their own experiences). I remind myself to question my own assumptions, too. It does not always work, but it helps me understand where I am in a conflict.
That is why the work of Susan Nall Bales and the FrameWorks Institute is so fascinating to me. It provides tools for understanding both the conceptual foundations for particular arguments about social issues and how to work with those arguments to help foster better communication.
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Bales’s new article for NPQ, “The Culture of Inequality,” is a must-read for all of us in the social sector, if only because it helps us to stand back and think more carefully about our own participation in supporting the dominant narrative about the ever-widening wealth gap.
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