Zhang Cuiping (Donna)

This is to give my heartfelt thanks to Stephanie B. Tansey, who has enriched my conception of “dialogue” which has hence become an organic part of my life.

During my many years’ pursuit of effective dialogues amid all the conflicts I have so far experienced or witnessed as an educator, I used to believe that dialogue meant making my “voice” heard in an unpleasant situation so that others can change their behavior and then the world would be saved! Now, after attending Stephanie’s course on dialogue skills, I see that dialoguing is in fact a process of growing wise in terms of self-mastery and decision making, a process of learning to respect rather than disparage, to ask questions rather than make assumptions, to listen actively rather than judge or rush to conclusions.

In other words, to have effective dialogues, we have to subdue the proud “me” and take a humble stance to find out the facts and make informed decisions. We have to think and know what is doable or undoable; we need to understand that dialogue is not always pleasant, that dialogue can be silence, and that dialogue does not always work.

Therefore, dialogue is a matter of creating changes in ourselves first in return for any expected changes in others, in the same way the “body” leads its “shadow.” More significantly, it was Stephanie who guided me to relate to the universe with Martin Buber’s “I and Thou” philosophy. When we study the world to acquire knowledge we see the world as an “it,” something to benefit us and make us survive. However, we won’t be happy only with the knowledge or the resultant material gain, but we will be happy when we learn to relate to the world by demonstrating due respect to everything in it. By treating everything as a “you,” we are having a genuine dialogue with the world in which we feel we are all interrelated and interdependent.

As a result, to love ourselves is to love the world and vice versa. For instance, when facing a tree, instead of seeing it as shelter or decoration for human beings, we may see the whole world--the mysteries about our genesis, the unperceived languages of Nature, and the unpredictable future. When we learn to respect a tree, we will be able to love and therefore live happily. The climax of Stephanie’s dialogue-skill course is the prospect of creating new meanings in this world of increasing diversity.

Why focus so much on the dark corners of human beings when we can tap all the strengths in people around us and compose “new harmonies” for a world-scale concert? It will lead to an incredibly beautiful world. This is definitely challenging, but what are we HERE for?

To conclude, where there is dialogue, there is a way!

Zhang Cuiping
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