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The 5 Levels of Communication & Racial Injustice

Updated: Jan 12, 2021

One of the most helpful things I have heard so far regarding the work of racial injustice, is about the 5 levels of communication.

1. Cliches

A common part of our speech that begins connection with other people, but doesn't go very far.

2. Facts

Facts are helpful for establishing the ground work of discussion, but you can get stuck here forever and never go any deeper.

3.Opinions Discussions about varying opinions help add more perspective to issues and ideas, but are still rather impersonal.

4. Emotions

Sharing how you feel with another person takes trust and vulnerability. It's a move toward deeper relationship. This starts to develop connection, compassion, empathy.

5. Transparency

The deepest level of communication is sharing who you are. Our deepest need as human beings is to be fully known, and yet completely loved. That's the message of the gospel of Jesus - you are fully known and yet perfectly loved by God.

I heard an African American pastor use these to explain why our conversations between black and white Americans are often at a stalemate when it comes to racism. His observation is that white Americans tend to stay at level 2 - obsessing over facts, statistics, and data. But black Americans go to level 4 - "let me tell you my story. This is what happened to me. This is how I feel. Do you understand?"

This made a lot of sense to me and I see this reflected in the conversations I observe.

As another speaker this week said, Proximity leads to Empathy which leads to Unity.

We need to get to know each other as human beings.

As a side note - the book of Psalms is a great book to find the 5 levels of communication. The prayers and cries of the people of God share their deepest emotions - good and bad, and reveal the God who hears, cares, forgives, and heals.

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