Renowned author coming to Western teaches importance of conversations in divided times

Contact: Deanne Puca
Irshad Manji

Irshad Manji says people who disagree can listen and respect each other.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Can we transcend our instincts to label each other before we’ve even had a conversation? Why do we become more persuasive when we explore perspectives that deeply challenge our own?

Communication innovator Irshad Manji will address those questions and more in a two-day visit to Western Michigan University on Monday and Tuesday, Sept. 20-21.

An interactive panel presentation for We Talk, Western’s civil discourse initiative, is open to the public at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 21, in Rooms 208-210 of the Bernhard Center. The event is free, but registration is required to ensure compliance with COVID-19 facility guidelines. Manji’s visit also will include multiple meetings with students, faculty, staff, University leadership and members of the wider Kalamazoo community.

Manji—the New York Times bestselling author of “Don’t Label Me: How to Do Diversity Without Inflaming the Culture Wars” and founder of the Moral Courage Project—says we are all much more than the labels applied to us. The missing piece is respect. Each of us, no matter how different our beliefs, needs to feel heard, not herded, under the banner of diversity and inclusion. Otherwise, inclusion is exclusionary and diversity is an illusion.

“‘Us and them’ is natural and often benign,” Manji says. “People who belong to this or that community can still cooperate with one another. It’s when ‘us and them’ becomes ‘us against them’ that we have a serious problem.”

Manji adds, “But, here’s the counter-intuitive truth: My opponent isn’t always the person who’s disagreeing with me. My first and most formidable opponent can be my overly defensive ego. Only by taming it will I be open to finding something in common with the other side.”

There is, she says, good reason for finding commonality—namely, “because shared ground builds trust, and it’s when we trust one another that we can discuss our differences constructively.”

Manji’s quick to clarify that “listening to others doesn’t mean having to agree with them. Rather, listening sincerely counters the negative noise of my ego, clearing room for me to consider points and ideas that I wouldn’t have thought of on my own. That’s how you can stand your ground and seek common ground at the same time.”

Learn to heal the polarization in our families, our friend groups and our country through practical tips that Manji will share from her groundbreaking Moral Courage Method of communication. Find more information and register for the panel presentation.

About Irshad Manji

Irshad Manji is founder of the acclaimed Moral Courage Project, which teaches people worldwide to discuss polarizing issues productively instead of canceling each other. Her latest bestseller is “Don't Label Me: How to Do Diversity Without Inflaming the Culture Wars.” A professor of leadership at New York University for many years, Manji now teaches at Oxford University's Initiative for Global Ethics and Human Rights. She is the winner of Oprah's first-ever Chutzpah Award for boldness.

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