After the 2016 presidential election, Dr. Paula Green, founder of the Karuna Center for Peacebuilding, a US-based NGO focused on international conflict transformation, inter-communal dialogue, and reconciliation, turned her focus to addressing the U.S. communal relations fractured across lines of historical enmity and current partisanship.
Dr. Green, along with other residents of her hometown of Leverett, Massachusetts created Hands Across the Hills whose goal is to engage communities antagonistic to each other because of their political allegiances. Modeled on her international work, this 2017-2018 project featured extended dialogues and cultural exchanges between groups from Massachusetts and Kentucky.
For 2019, Dr. Green is facilitating a second dialogue project called Bridge4Unity, which focuses on racial divides and include participants from South Carolina, Massachusetts, and Kentucky.
We asked Dr. Green, who has 40 years of experience as a psychologist, educator, facilitator, and mentor in the field of intergroup relations to give the Aspire community her best advice on communicating with others.
How we can build bridges of understanding and connection in our communities by strengthening our communication tools?
In this historical moment of polarization in our country, we are called to reach out across the lines of division and alienation. We struggle in our families, workplaces, and community organizations to understand those who perceive, vote, and value differently. We have become not just strangers to one another, but often hostile strangers. To mend the fabric of brokenness and prevent even more dangerous ruptures, here is a top ten list to increase your communication skills and strategies.
Dr. Paula Green at Karuna Centre for Peacebuilding | Photo Courtesy of Dr Paula Green
Dr Paula Green Speaking at PeaceCon 2018 | Photo Courtesy of Dr Paula Green
Acknowledge that we all carry fear of hurting others by saying the wrong thing, feel defensive about our beliefs and our identities, and are more vulnerable than we generally admit. Where possible, share these fears in your personal communications and dialogues. Stay in control of spilling out accusations and judgments that will cause harm and set back your goal of repairing the divides.
Dr. Green, Professor Emerita at the School for International Training in the US, where she founded and directed CONTACT, the Conflict Transformation Across Cultures Program, a residential intensive for peacemakers from around the world.
In October 2018, Dr. Green and Hands Across the Hills received the first ever Alliance for Peacebuilding award dedicated to U.S. peacebuilding.
She also holds the “Psychology of Peace and Justice Prize” from Psychologists for Social Responsibility, 2012.
In 2009, she received an Unsung Hero of Compassion award from the Dali Lama, given to individuals who, through their loving kindness and service to others, have made their communities and our world a better place.
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