What is a Braver Angel? What is a Braver Leader?

~ by Doug Della Pietra (This article was originally published June 29, 2022 and is reprinted here with permission.)

What is a Braver Angel? A Braver Angel is a citizen with a political leaning — Red (as defined here), Blue (as defined here), Other (as defined here), or none at all. A Braver Angel shares the commitment and actively works to decrease affective political polarization (not only disagreement on issues but personal contempt and distrust) by practicing the Braver Angels Way. And, this occurs in all of a Braver Angels’ interactions with others (family, friends, co-workers, classmates, fellow community members, etc.) and all means of communication (in-person, phone, text message, letter, email, Zoom / Skype, and social media).

The Braver Angels Way (described on the Braver Angels website here) is observed when we

  • State our views freely and fully, without fear.

  • Welcome opportunities to engage with those with whom we disagree.

  • Treat people who disagree with us with honesty and respect.

  • Seek to disagree accurately, avoiding exaggeration and stereotypes.

  • Look for common ground where it exists, and if possible, find ways to work together.

  • Believe that all of us have blind spots and none of us are not worth talking to.

  • Believe that, in disagreements, both sides share and learn. In Braver Angels, neither side is teaching the other or giving feedback on how to think or say things differently.

Therefore, a Braver Angel approaches political conversations in a different headspace and mindset. The goal is not “winning them over” or “changing someone’s mind” or “helping them ‘see the light’” or any similar sentiments. Rather, the goal is guided by the Braver Angels Pledge (described in more detail here):

  • As individuals, we try to understand the other side’s point of view, even if we don’t agree with it.

  • In our communities, we engage those we disagree with, looking for common ground and ways to work together.

Braver Angels Founder Bill Doherty emphasizes in a recent video the importance of respect between those who disagree: "One thing we can do is to try not to convince loved ones to change their minds about political issues that they feel strongly about. If you set out to change somebody’s mind, to straighten them out, to give them the facts that they’re lacking, they’re going to resist that." With an attitude of non-judgmental curiosity and a non-anxious presence, Braver Angels seek to broaden the public discourse to encompass many points of view, an inclusiveness that reflects the complexity of the issues facing us in today’s world. Note: A Braver Angel does not set aside their political leaning or convictions in an attempt to “keep the peace” and avoid political disagreements. Instead, a Braver Angel leans into curiosity, looking for common ground and ways to work together. What is a Braver Leader? A Braver Leader intentionally looks for opportunities with individuals, groups and in the community to educate about Braver Angels, their mission, offerings (workshops, skills trainings, debates, etc.), and approach for decreasing affective political polarization. As a Braver Leader, like qualified Braver Angels Moderators who lead workshops and skills trainings, one’s political leaning and opinions give way to a higher priority: optimizing opportunities in which the Braver Angels Way can serve the community’s good. For example, let’s say there is a contentious issue facing our community, perhaps an event that is politically controversial. As a Braver Leader and someone who is familiar with the Braver Angels Way and offerings, I begin to wonder if one of the offerings – such as the Braver Angels parliamentary-style debate process – could provide a constructive framework for the community to consider the issue. As a Braver Leader, my attention and focus are not on my own political leaning, opinions or pro or con beliefs about the issue itself. Instead, I am evaluating if a Braver Angels method of dialogue might benefit and help the community. Again, as mentioned above, Braver Angels and Braver Leaders are guided by the following Pledge:

  • As individuals, we try to understand the other side’s point of view, even if we don’t agree with it.

  • In our communities, we engage those we disagree with, looking for common ground and ways to work together.

Our Finger Lakes Region is fortunate to have about a dozen Braver Leaders who are meeting on a monthly basis to plan ways to bring the Braver Angels Way more fully to our region. If Braver Leadership draws you, please contact me via email at dougdellapietra@gmail.com. Closing Thought No doubt, “bravery” is a necessary attribute of a Braver Angel and a Braver Leader. In such a politically polarized society, it is not easy to suspend judgment, generalizations, and pervasive stereotypes about the “other side,” particularly when experiencing strong emotion about an issue. Engaging with those we greatly disagree with, attempting to understand and look for common ground can all too often be characterized as “selling out,”, “naïve,” and even dangerous. Yet, it is in the face of our most contentious disagreements that the Braver Angels Way is most essential. And we need more role models demonstrating how to seek understanding of the other side’s point of view, even if they don’t agree with it, to further the mission of Braver Angels: To bring Americans together to bridge the partisan divide and strengthen our democratic republic.

 

Finger Lakes (FLX) Region

Bringing Reds, Blues, and Others Together to Talk, Listen, and Understand

www.pachapeopleroc.org/braver-angels


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