Relationships all the way down

I really like Bharat’s thoughtful post about talking to his morning bus driver about climate change.

So, as someone who thinks climate change is a serious issue, is it not my responsibility to jump into this debate? Here’s an otherwise stand-up guy who appears to be very misinformed and misled on basic climate change facts, good opportunity to change minds, right?

I am not so sure.

He points to research showing that “more science” doesn’t cure climate skepticism, and proposes that the hard work of building trust is more effective than sharing the best facts. B, I’m so curious to hear how that goes on your bus rides.

This relates to a theme I have been pondering in many areas, which is that change doesn’t happen when we have the best arguments; change happens when we build positive relationships. Simple idea, endlessly challenging.

Here is someone talking about the pointlessness of having logical debates about queer rights in faith communities and other religious issues.

Every poll and every wise observer points out that gay-affirming folks have not been winning on account of superior arguments, whether arguments from the Bible or theology or science. They aren’t winning on account of their superior debating skills. They’re winning by being present and visible in faith communities: by coming out in ways that clergy and congregations can’t ignore. Gay people are winning because straight people who love and respect them are coming out right along with them.

The classic instance is the faithful older church woman—a devoted and beloved member of the community—who, at just the right moment in a congregational meeting, stands up and says, “Well, friends, I guess we can argue about all of this until the cows come home. All I know is that ________, my ________, is as dear a child of God as I will ever hope to be.” She then goes on to tell the story of she found out about ________, how they stayed close, and how her heart was changed. Bingo. Are we ready for the vote?

And if you squint, I think this example is related too. Here is someone observing that designers are dismissive about the time they put into building relationships with their clients.

While they see client meetings are important, many designers don’t see them as integral to the craft and discipline of interaction design. For them, the “real work” of interaction design is the work of creation… So, despite the unavoidable necessity of communicating with clients, designers don’t seem to talk much about hand waving as a part of interaction design as a profession.

However, with more than 100 hours of project work analyzed through video and audio, I’d say that successful hand waving looks more and more like an important and hard-won accomplishment.

I think relationship work gets dismissed in a lot of areas, while ideas and intellectual work get called “real”. When people talk about unpaid work, it is often focussed on the massive unpaid caregiving labour that women and girls do. I wonder what it would mean to also account for the dismissed relationship-building work that supports other work?

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