Helping Others Become Motivated to Improve

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Just over a month ago, I commented on a thought-provoking column, "We Need To Start Befriending Neo Nazis," by Bethany Mandel. Today, I pass word of a captivating piece by Daryl Davis, whom Mandel mentions. Davis, you may recall, is a black musician who has, over the years, befriended numerous Klansmen, ultimately causing a fair number to renounce their memberships. Here's a passage, about his first meeting, in a hotel room, with the grand dragon of the Maryland Klan:

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
We were both apprehensive of the other, and the interview started haltingly. We discussed what he had hoped to achieve by joining the Klan; what his thoughts were on blacks, Asians, Jews and Hispanics; and whether he thought it would ever be possible for different races to get along. A little while later, we heard an inexplicable crackling noise and we both tensed. The dragon and I stared each other in the eye, silently asking, "What did you just do?" The nighthawk reached for his gun. Nobody spoke. I barely breathed.

Seated atop the dresser, my secretary realized what had happened: The ice in the bucket had started to melt, causing the soda cans to shift. It happened again, and we all began laughing. From there, the interview went on without a hitch.
The piece and Davis's related work are potentially quite instructive, along the same lines as Marshall Rosenberg's communication methods. Davis was astute enough to grasp a fact that chance had presented to him: Finding a positive commonality with someone else can be a first step towards helping that person become motivated to change his ways for the better. This is an invaluable lesson for anyone concerned with positive cultural change or, for that matter, improving his own immediate life, as Davis's many friendships also show.

-- CAV

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