Leadership: What We Learn From Gen Z

Summary: The difference between having a debate and having a dialogue are worlds apart. For healthy relationships, dialogue is the winner.

There is an astounding amount of polarization in the world right now. It can be seen in all generations. Sometimes I wonder if the bad habits from the past will ever change. It seems the world of “right/wrong, good/bad, black/white, win/lose will never go away.

Above all, this type of polar thinking is causing difficulties at work, at home, and in the community.

However, hope is still here. It is possible to learn how to use dialogue for better results and positive relationships.

Polarized thinking is handed from generation to generation.

For example, I learned a lot the other day from my teenaged granddaughter, Arielle. We were on a walk when our casual conversation about boys, school, dieting, and exercise became a profound dialogue.

Most importantly and out of context, she said, “Grandma, what do you do when people are fighting about points of view when nobody’s listening? That happens a lot in school and with my friends. It feels like a waste of time to even talk about stuff like climate change and diversity.”

As a result of her probing question, I responded, “Honey, that’s one of the biggest issues we’re dealing with today. It starts with what you want as an outcome of talking with each other. I remember when I was in school, joining the debate team. I learned how to debate. And the core of a debate means winners and losers.”

So, we talked about what it means to win a debate and the difference in dialogue.

Polarized thinking can be changed by using the power of dialogue.

As a result, she was reticent, thinking, and then she asked, “Do you know about the YouTube channel, “Jubilee and Middle Ground?”

And I didn’t. So, if you don’t know it, please go and find it for those of you reading this. It’s fascinating. They bring together people with polarized points of view or separate points of view to speak out.

Let me put it this way. It is a place to begin the dialogue. Here you learn to “talk with” rather than “talk at” each other. Here you find Democrats and Republicans, including young people, even before they can vote. In addition, there are pro-choice and pro-life people coming together. Atheists and Christians, pro-gun and anti-gun, climate believers, and climate deniers all talk to each other.

In the same vein, Arielle explained, “You know grandma, my generation is much more open to differences than older generations have been.” She continued, “As the older generations go away, we’ll take over, and we’ll make the world a better place.”

Consequently, I said, “You go, girl. This world needs new ways of thinking.”

Dialogue: ask questions that lead to deeper discussion and then listen.

Consequently, I decided to share the ideas from a module in our Total leadership Connections Program. The segment we use comes from the play adapted to the film “12 Angry Men.” It tackles the issues of prejudice, racism, guilt, and conflict resolution in an unprecedented way. And if you haven’t seen it, please, please watch it. It’s not a gang bang shoot them up thing.

It’s about twelve men sitting in a room. A somewhat dingy room in New York. They are the chosen jurors that have to decide a case about an eighteen-year-old Hispanic boy charged with murdering his father. They heard all the testimony, and now it’s decision time.

Sequestered in that dingy room, these jurors must deliberate, with a guilty verdict meaning death for the accused inner-city teen. Or he will be acquitted and set free.

As a dozen men struggle to reach a unanimous decision, one juror casts doubt on the elements of the case. Soon, you begin to see all their internal perspectives come to life.

The power of dialogue vs debate is the human dimension becomes clear.

There’s one man in the group. He happens to be an architect by trade. And architects must see how whole systems function. It is critical to understand how the parts connect to make the entire project viable.

This juror is very quiet by nature. When the process starts, the voting is eleven to one in favor of a guilty verdict. Eleven to one. To complete the decision must be unanimous. Therefore, the play shows the power of one person to elicit change.

After they take their first vote, I don’t want to destroy the film for you because it’s so powerful, there is an electric moment. You see, the rest of the men want to get out of there. It’s hot. The air conditioning isn’t working. There’s a baseball game in town. Finally, somebody says to him, “What do you want?” And he responds, “Can’t we just talk?”

When I shared this with Arielle, it brought back this whole idea of Jubilee and Middle ground. In other words, the real question is, “Can’t we talk. Additionally, and get to know each other?”

In the same vein, what is fascinating about “12 Angry Men “is they begin to “just talk.”

One person CAN make a difference to challenge polarized thinking.

Moreover, “Can’t we just talk” is needed now, more than ever. It’s time for the polarization present today to begin to melt away. Then we can start to see that there are ways through what we’re living with and eliminate the rudeness that often leads to violence.

Join me in the desire for more dialogue. It’s important. To sum up, if you’re interested in learning more about Total Leadership Connections or any of our other programs, please email me at sylvia @ceoptions.com.

In conclusion, let’s work together to make the world a better place. And I want to thank Arielle for steering me to Jubilee and Middle ground. I suggest you all watch “12 Angry Men.” Watch it with your teens. It’s compelling.

To your success,


PS. You can get a more in-depth perspective about the power of dialogue in my award-winning book “Don’t Bring It To Work.”

PSS If you prefer video, here it is to watch.

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Sylvia Lafair

Creative Energy Options