Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Approach is EVERYTHING

Over the last month I’ve been doing a lot of speaking on Zenergy and deescalating the fracking wars. The warm and enthusiastic response is heartening. Time and again, the question is, how?

So once you’ve come out of the oil-and-gas closet as either an employee or supporter, how can you engage if you don’t have all the answers?

Well take heart! It’s often frustrating that the debate about fracking is dominated by emotion, but because it is dominated by emotion, the objective of Zenergy isn’t to have all the answers, it is to engage in a positive, respectful, and compelling way. You don’t have to have all the answers, you just have to be another person who cares about your family, your community, and our beautiful state of Colorado - then you can be a part of deescalating the fracking wars simply by having a conversation.

Approach is Everything

If you overhear a conversation about fracking at the water cooler, the gym, or a BBQ, I don’t blame you for wanting to run the other way. Many such conversations now have the righteous indignation and strong opinions rampant in religious or political discussion. But running the other way leaves the stage to the extremes in this conversation about energy, and so the rest of us simply must engage.

In my community talks about how to contribute to conversations about fracking in a meaningful way, I get the most questions about tone. How do we talk about this in the face of so many strong opinions and contradictory information? Here are a few steps I recommend:

Bring intellectual curiosity: Your job isn’t to convince anyone of anything, or have all the answers. Be curious: How did they arrive at their opinion? Where do they get their information? That might be as far as you get, but it will allow you to make a connection without creating more friction.

Check your own reaction:  Fracking has gotten so heated that many of us tense up at the mere mention of its name, in the same way we do if the topic is global warming! (I just did that this morning at my gym and almost missed an awesome conversation with someone who sells solar panels to the oil and gas industry.) Notice your own discomfort and take a deep breath.  The only way we can engage in a meaningful way is if we don’t contribute to the escalation.

Ask before you advise: It’s always helpful to ask: Are you interested in another opinion or more information? If the person isn’t, resume intellectual curiosity and save your breath! If they are interested, then you’ve created a conversation rather than a debate.

Converse, don’t debate: Once you are engaged in the conversation, resist the temptation to be right. Hold onto your curiosity about how someone arrives at such opinions and assess what kind of information might be credible or helpful to them.

Acknowledge the emotion: The fracking wars are driven primarily by concern over health and safety. We all want what’s best for our families and our communities, and creating this connection with our neighbors goes a long way to interesting and productive conversations. It’s critical that we make this common connection and acknowledge our common ground.  Then we can assess what the concerns are and what kind of information might be relevant in addressing those shared concerns.

Zen baby steps: The fracking wars didn’t evolve in a day and won’t be healed in one either. Take your time. Information shared is information gained. We are in this for the long haul.

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