As I reflect on my weekend at Reboot Alberta, I’m reminded of my initial impressions and how I still hold them to be true. The diversity in the room (gender, age, political leanings) sticks with me. I don’t think I’ve ever been to another political event like this one. And that leads me to my final impression of the day itself:
I was surprised by how respectful everyone was.
There was no shouting or outward appearances of anger what-so-ever. As a matter of fact, people were downright nice. In the group discussions that I participated in not one person dominated any conversation, no one cut others off, no one interrupted. Not once. Maybe I’m jaded, but I was downright shocked by this fact. I participate in many different boards and group discussions on a regular basis and I have never seen a group so genuinely respectful of the opinions and contributions of others.
Perhaps what most shocked me is that this was a quickly established state of being for the participants. In my experience, you usually have to arrive at this point of kindness by some form of organized ‘punishment’ – if you will – in response to someone’s poor behaviour – be it intentional behaviour or not. I’m sure we’ve all been there: one person talks too much so someone says “let’s hear from someone else” etc. Not so in this group. It was respectful right from the very first moment.
And everyone was encouraged to contribute too. Round tables to start every conversation appeared to happen simply naturally; therefore everyone has participated before the conversation had even really started! Everyone who had something to say was given the opportunity.
Now you might be thinking this is just me trying to paint a pretty picture. But it’s not. I had to constantly remind myself this is a group of highly political people. Almost all of them A-type personalities too. These are the kinds of people you normally would picture yelling at one another during Question Period, or passive aggressively trying to further their cause by undercutting the other guy during a conversation or in a comment section. None of this happened though.
I certainly was expecting some bashing of the current political process. I mean, after all, we were all in the room to begin with because we felt some form of dissatisfaction with the current political realities (or climate or whatever word you want to use) in Alberta. I expected I would be all too early dismissing individuals as ‘not worth the trouble’ after they blurted out another near-sighted, one dimensional, unhelpful comment about “the conservative bastards” or “those fucking lefties”. But nada. Nothing. And keep in mind there were die-hard members of pretty much every political party in the room. This is not the kind of behaviour you’d expect when they get into a heated debate. There wasn’t even any name calling, unintentional slander or jokes gone wrong. Sure, there was the odd comment about how each party interacted with various communities, but again, even when the conversation turned to discuss a negative, everyone was unbelievably respectful.
I still haven’t decided what to make of this ‘respectful’ state of being I witnessed. It’s not what I’m used to seeing in political discussions. But I have a feeling it might just be a fundamental part of what being “progressive” is all about.