The Importance of Conversation (reflections from Katy Byrne)

This reflective piece was submitted by NCDD member Katy Byrne, MFT Psychotherapist, columnist, radio host, and public speaker, via the Add-to-Blog form at

We, the people, can create a new world, but not separately. We need community to heal, to be heard in safety and courage no matter what the circumstances.

It’s not easy to listen well or respectfully or to speak up. I ask myself “Should I bring it up?” or I wonder if what I have to say might be too hurtful. Sometimes I go home wondering what was really said, what did they mean, what I could have clarified or what was I thinking by saying what I said?

There are many reasons not to speak up but knowing our true intention and stating it helps clarify that. And many of us already know that it is also very helpful to make “I” statements so as not to blame and to state your needs. I know I have talked about all of this in my book, “The Courage To Speak Up, Getting Your Hairballs Out” (found at my website, already, but I can’t help drawing a synopsis. In other words constructive conversations could change the world.

Speaking up can occur in tiny moments each day, in thick spaces of tension when we know what is not being said, but we brave saying it, or in larger arenas when we take a deep breath and stand up for what we believe it.

No one wants to go to jail for speaking, lose a marriage, a friendship, or a job. So, what to do? We need to talk to each other more than ever before. Conversation needs to be valued. We might find answers to big questions if we hung in there together, without the constant use of machines and technology. In large groupings or small, in neighborhoods, within the United Nations and everywhere, hairballs for days! The big world ball depends on us.

But the fear of sharing is real. Shame lurks close by when I speak up. One night, out with friends, I mentioned the name of a book I was reading and was corrected abruptly. I mispronounced the title. I was quiet for the rest of the evening, wrestling with my inner “bun lady “(the critic.) “Did I sound silly? Was I too loud? Was my excitement out of place?”

Sometimes we’re resentful, paranoid or confused. Recently with an old acquaintance, I blurted out; “I’d like to clear up our misunderstandings.” That’s all it took. In that one moment, we opened a new relationship and grew closer again. Inside, I heard” don’t rock the boat.” But, I carried my hairball down the field, taking a deep breath and it paid off.

Often, we put up walls when we are afraid to talk to one another .The national defense is not different than our own armor. Isn’t it time to drop it and do something else? Yes, there are times to say “no” and step out of harmful situations, but we also have to learn as a species to dialogue in conflict. If we are going to change a world that is full of huge hairballs, can we be pro-active?

Here’s where the personal becomes political. If we don’t learn to deal with our differences daily and speak up for our values, will we have the power and strength to talk and listen to each other about global issues?

Some say conversation is not enough. The problems are too big. Or, you could argue that talking isn’t going anywhere, we have to “do “something. Yes, we do. But, I believe that moving forwards with vision emerges from deep dialogue. What we have not done, collectively, is come together and put our cards on the table. It is only out of brainstorming and sharing that we unify. Safety is built from the ground up, as we speak “our peace.”

The very fabric of our society is fragmented now. Isolation is predominant. This is the time to value connection – we need each other more than ever before.

I often think about the way ants carry a bread crumb up a hill. (Odd that insects work together better than we, the people.) Couldn’t more conversations produce new systems, new ways of being, create a world for the common good?

Please, let’s all keep speaking up for the voiceless ones, the earth, the animals and children who need our words to protect them and provide for a future.

It is my contention that conversation can change the world.

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