This lesson focuses on having constructive conversations about contentious topics. And as everyone knows, Marcellus Shale and Natural Gas Development definitely qualify as contentious topics. One of the reasons we are having this lesson toward the beginning of the class, is that it helps to set the stage for how we talk with other people about Marcellus Shale and any other divisive topic. The strategies discussed in this lesson, such as active listening, really shape how you might engage with other people when talking about this topic. Moreover, the skills that we will discuss are applicable to any topic in any domain of life, from work to family life to scientific topics, like Marcellus Shale.
This is the only lesson that doesn't focus on the scientific issues involved in Marcellus Shale. Instead this lesson provides a framework for understanding conflict management. Most of the other sessions in this class focus on the science to help you understand topics like geology, energy use, water, community and environmental and economic impacts, and so forth. However, Marcellus Shale is a very complex and divisive issue and it's hard to talk about these substantive science related questions if you don't trust who you are talking with. Also, if you think that the process you are engaging in is lousy, that it's stacked toward one side or the other, or there's no chance for public input and so forth, it is difficult to engage in a successful dialogue. So the substance is really just one part of that triangle. People and relationships are the other part of that triangle. Just understanding the science of Marcellus Shale isn't enough to help people make informed decisions. This lesson focuses on the people and relationships component of conflict management.
- Rationale for discussing constructive conversations within a class on the science of Marcellus Shale
- Difference between debate and dialogue
- Three skills for having constructive conversations, which are active listening, mediating, and reframing
By the end of this lesson, you should be able to:
- Illustrate an understanding of active listening.
- Compare position and interest.
- Demonstrate constructive conversation skills around contentious issues.
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If you have questions, or need further references you may contact Penn State hydrogeologist Dave Yoxtheimer, at the Earth & Environmental Systems Institute. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.