3 Practices for Crossing the Difference Divide

practice One

I’ll be unusually interested in others.

Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.
— Simone Weil

Think about the times when you’ve been on the receiving end of positive, specific, welcome attention … the sort of attention that made you feel in that moment like the most important person in the room — because someone asked a question in a way that made you the only person who could answer it.

Most of us don’t have an overabundance of such memories to draw on, which is why the ones we have tend stay with us forever — a teacher who encouraged us, a friend’s parent who made us feel welcome, a college roommate who introduced us to her friends — all filed away in a mental folder titled “Impossible To Forget.”

Jim Henderson says, “Ira Glass is the creator and host of the wildly popular radio show and podcast This American Life. Ira is a fascinating person, but the habit he


practices that I’m most interested in is his curiosity. On the radio, Ira comes across as a genuinely curious person. I wanted to know if that was how he was in real life, so I asked him. 

“Ira laughed. ‘Of course I’m curious! I mean, how fake would it be for me to ask questions and not really mean them? Don’t you think people would pick up on that?’ Of course they would.” 

Most of us learn to spot fake interest from a mile away. We learn to recognize sincerity, too. And we’re drawn to others who genuinely seeks to understand us. In the 3 Practices, we try to begin every questions with the words, “I’d be curious to know….”

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The first Practice is about genuine curiosity.


practice TWO

I will stay in the room with difference.

When you discover I voted for the wrong person, does that mean we have to break up?

If The 3 Practices had to be reduced to one idea it would be Staying in the room with difference. 

Even a glance at the cultural landscape is likely to make people feel a little unsteady on that proposition. Staying in the room with difference is what folks are learning to avoid in the isolation of made-to-order social media echo chambers and narrowcast media. Somehow it just seems safer to seek the company of our own kind. 


But, inevitably, that safe feeling passes … replaced by suspicion, anxiety, fear, anger…. It doesn’t take much imagination to see that being divided isn’t safer at all.

As Kathryn Schultz puts it: “Imagination is that which enables us to . . .  enjoy stories other than our own. …Empathy is that which enables us to take those stories seriously.” Imagining and practicing fresh ways of crossing the Difference Divide — and living to tell about it — is what the 3 Practices are all about.


the second practice is a pledge to get in the room and do our best to stay in the room.


practice THREE

I will stop comparing my best with your worst.

I don’t have the time to get to know every person I encounter in the course of my daily life. So thank goodness I have a handy little device at my disposal that helps me know how to deal with just about anyone I come across: stereotypes. Yes, stereotypes are a real time-saver!
— The Onion

Not seeing something that appears obvious to someone else is not, in and of itself, a moral failing.

While listening to another person describe what they see, it may dawn on us that, just as they’re not seeing what we see, we’re not seeing what they see.

Which is a useful reminder that what two individuals see depends in part on where they’re standing — and raises the possibilities that 1) neither may have a perfectly unobstructed view, and 2) one may have a clearer view or a better angle than the other.


3 Practice Circles routinely close with an invitation to thank someone in the circle. People often express gratitude for the courteous, thought-provoking questions they were asked. And some go a step farther — like the man who ended his thank-yous by saying, “I realized during this group that I sometimes think things are facts that might not actually be facts at all. I need to think about that more.”

In effect, what that’s saying is, “Let me come stand where you’re standing, and see if I see the same thing. And then we’ll talk about it.”

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The third practice replaces pretentious certainty with modest exploration.


Events . Training . Coaching

  • 3 PRACTICE EVENTS [about two hours] are live 3Practice Circle workshops involving anywhere from a handful up to hundreds of people.

When the crowd is too large to fit comfortably in a circle, we form a 3Practice Fishbowl with six to eight participants who model the Circle experience. The audience observes the Circle, has guided interacts with each other, and asks questions of those in the Circle. We’ve involved hundreds of people at a time in this manner. People tell us it’s quite unlike anything they’ve experienced — both inside and outside the 3Practice Fishbowl .

3 Practice engagements provide a path for:

  • addressing organization and community climate concerns

  • establishing baselines for crisis communication

  • culture-building

  • problem-solving

  • 3 PRACTICE CIRCLE LEADER CERTIFICATION TRAINING [one-day] teaches the skills involved in organizing, leading, and sustaining community-based 3Practice Circles.

  • THE 3 PRACTICE 90-DAY COACHING PROGRAM — free of charge following the one-one Circle Leader Certification Training — develops 3Practice leadership skills through pre- and post-experience assessments and online and phone sessions.


Contact us about 3 Practice Events, Training, Coaching, or anything that’s on your mind.

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