Thursday, January 7, 2016

Spirituality: Advice on Conversation and Dialogue from Ignatius

Advice on Conversation and Dialogue from Ignatius

These points are from the letter of instruction in early 1546 from Ignatius to the Jesuits attending the first session of the Council of Trent. He provides advice on the style and manner by which Jesuits are to enter into delicate conversation and dialogue. It is like a Grad ad Grad for Jesuits concerning how one is to conduct oneself in potentially challenging situations. (The words in parentheses are my additions.)

1.      Learn the surpassing worth of conversation. (Keep the overall purpose in the forefront of your minds. Contribute to the larger goal, not for your personal plans.)
2.     Be slow of speech. (Ironically, we seen, heard, and known by the silence we keep.)
3.     Be considerate and kind, especially when deciding on matters under discussion. (Scripture places kindness, mercy, and an understanding heart above all other virtues.)
4.     Pay attention to the whole person. (Persons are much more than their words; Understand the persons’ significant histories as valuable insights into their current stances and positions.)
5.     Understand the meaning, learnings, and wishes of those who speak. (Words are only the tips of the icebergs to a person’s beliefs. Know the deeper story so you can honor the person.)
6.    Be free of prejudice. (This is challenging work.)
7.     Argue from authority cautiously. (We do not lord it over others. Our goal is to gently, respectfully lead them to new places. This takes time.)
8.    Quote important persons only if arranged beforehand. (No name dropping. We never want to do anything that separates us from others, but rather unites us.)
9.    Consider the reasons on both sides without showing attachment to your own opinion. (We certainly have the ability to do this. We will learn a great deal if we authentically try to understand another’s position.)
10.  Avoid bringing dissatisfaction to anyone. (Use positive regard always. Let go of yourself and appeal to the common good.)
11.    Be modest when you are certain. (We make ourselves accessible; We do not try to erect barriers.)
12.   Choose to speak at the other’s convenience even when certain. (Also, questions are your friends. It is appropriate to ask questions especially when you are certain.)
13.   Give conversation the time it needs. (The art of conversation requires sufficient time, pauses, and energy. One conversation never resolves an issue, but our commitment to the conversation is paramount.)

Conversation is like conversion. It is “turning towards” the other person and we are changed by it. Our hearts, minds, imagination, values become vulnerable when we turn towards another so much that we make another’s experience our own. 

[Counsel for Jesuits, Selected Letters and Instructions of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, edited by Joseph N. Tylenda, S.J., Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1985]