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How to Explore Ethics and Values with Your Community

How to Explore Ethics and Values with Your Community

Some believe that truth is generally black and white – either something is true or not. Others insist that truth has many gray areas. Folks disagree on whether it is always moral to tell the truth or whether there are higher morals than the truth. How can you collaborate with others to reflect on meanings and values from a reason-oriented perspective?

Benefits of an Ethics Discussion Meeting

I run a number of such meetings in my role as President of Intentional Insights, a nonprofit devoted to popularizing science-based strategies to reach our goals and succeed at life. You can set up your own ethics discussion, and participants gain a great deal from attending these events:

On the feedback sheets passed around after one of our events, one participant wrote: “I gained greater insight into how other people navigate difficult discussions regarding truth and values, when not all parties agree.”

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Another wrote that now they will “always question ‘my truth’” and will engage in “thinking more about what I hold true.”

A third wrote that “building a sense of community is what I gained.”

Reflecting on purpose, meaning, values, and morals together with others in your community and social circle provides:

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• A venue for reflecting on deep life questions
• A means of building and cultivating social and community connections
• A way to help others, through assisting them in finding clearer answers to life’s big questions

Thus, participating in such discussion groups offers a trifecta of elements to help people gain a sense of meaning and purpose in life. During these discussions, it is especially beneficial to write down how the helpful thoughts expressed by others informed and changed your thinking. Research shows that writing these down helps you remember and understand them better, while also minimizing distracting and unhelpful thoughts about unfulfilled plans.

Organizing a Meeting

If you are interested in attending an ethics discussion meeting, you can often find local meetings online. Humanist Communities often hold such meetings as interfaith, reason-oriented venues for people to reflect in a community setting on life’s meaning and purpose and on their values and ethics from an evidence-based perspective.

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But let’s say you didn’t find one around you and want to organize your own meeting. The first thing that you want to ensure is to create a safe and open-minded environment. Ensure that people listen actively and offer empathy to each other.

To do that, it helps to open the meeting with social time for folks to get to know each other. We used a potluck, so that people eat together. This helps people get to know and become comfortable with each other. Having that comfort helps people trust each other and be vulnerable, which is vital when discussing ethics with each other.

During the discussion, consider the needs of diverse participants, both extroverts and introverts. To ensure they can peacefully coexist, create a moderation structure that gets people to speak one at a time. Prevent cross-talk and back-and-forth in your moderation. Discourage advice-giving unless someone asks for it, and cut debates short. Talk about an expectation of privacy: whatever is said at the event stays at the event.

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Pick the topic in advance, and provide some readings for folks to get them into the spirit of things. Readings will help introverts get into the materials and prepare their thoughts before they speak. At the same time, readings will structure the discussion in a shared setting, providing a baseline for everyone to refer to in their comments.

In our meetings, we had some great discussions on topics such as: celebrations, both traditional and self-created ones; life transitions, such as moving, becoming a parent, and retiring; friendship, including how to develop friendships, how to be a good friend, and how to deal with conflicts in friendships; responsibility, including responsibility to oneself, one’s social circle, and one’s society; meaning and purpose; and many others. Intentional Insights has put together some sample readings and topic plans to get you started.

I hope you have a great experience at your meeting!

Featured photo credit: Richard Foster-CCBYSA 2.0 License via flickr.com

More by this author

Dr. Gleb Tsipursky

Cognitive neuroscientist and behavioral economist; CEO of Disaster Avoidance Experts; multiple best-selling author

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Last Updated on November 19, 2020

The Gentle Art of Saying No for a Less Stressful Life

The Gentle Art of Saying No for a Less Stressful Life

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments—you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time. That’s why the art of saying no can be a game changer for productivity.

Requests for your time are coming in all the time—from family members, friends, children, coworkers, etc. To stay productive, minimize stress, and avoid wasting time, you have to learn the gentle art of saying no—an art that many people have problems with.

What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger, or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

However, it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here’s how to stop people pleasing and master the gentle art of saying no.

1. Value Your Time

Know your commitments and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it.

Be honest when you tell them that: “I just can’t right now. My plate is overloaded as it is.” They’ll sympathize as they likely have a lot going on as well, and they’ll respect your openness, honesty, and attention to self-care.

2. Know Your Priorities

Even if you do have some extra time (which, for many of us, is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time?

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For example, if my wife asks me to pick up the kids from school a couple of extra days a week, I’ll likely try to make time for it as my family is my highest priority. However, if a coworker asks for help on some extra projects, I know that will mean less time with my wife and kids, so I will be more likely to say no. 

However, for others, work is their priority, and helping on extra projects could mean the chance for a promotion or raise. It’s all about knowing your long-term goals and what you’ll need to say yes and no to in order to get there. 

You can learn more about how to set your priorities here.

3. Practice Saying No

Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word[1].

Sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.

4. Don’t Apologize

A common way to start out is “I’m sorry, but…” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important when you learn to say no, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm and unapologetic about guarding your time.

When you say no, realize that you have nothing to feel bad about. You have every right to ensure you have time for the things that are important to you. 

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5. Stop Being Nice

Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. However, if you erect a wall or set boundaries, they will look for easier targets.

Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.

6. Say No to Your Boss

Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss—they’re our boss, right? And if we start saying no, then we look like we can’t handle the work—at least, that’s the common reasoning[2].

In fact, it’s the opposite—explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.

7. Pre-Empting

It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting,

“Look, everyone, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects, and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”

This, of course, takes a great deal of awareness that you’ll likely only have after having worked in one place or been friends with someone for a while. However, once you get the hang of it, it can be incredibly useful.

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8. Get Back to You

Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, try saying no this way:

“After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.”

At least you gave it some consideration.

9. Maybe Later

If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say,

“This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].”

Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands. If you need to continue saying no, here are some other ways to do so[3]:

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Saying no the healthy way

    10. It’s Not You, It’s Me

    This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often, the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time.

    Simply say so—you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization—but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true, as people can sense insincerity.

    The Bottom Line

    Saying no isn’t an easy thing to do, but once you master it, you’ll find that you’re less stressed and more focused on the things that really matter to you. There’s no need to feel guilty about organizing your personal life and mental health in a way that feels good to you.

    Remember that when you learn to say no, isn’t about being mean. It’s about taking care of your time, energy, and sanity. Once you learn how to say no in a good way, people will respect your willingness to practice self-care and prioritization. 

    More Tips for a Less Stressful Life

    Featured photo credit: Kyle Glenn via unsplash.com

    Reference

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