Communication Across Differences
The Mutual Persuasion Project is a collaborative initiative for promoting the power of communication across differences. We are scholars in rhetoric, linguistics, communication, and psychology. We seek to empower people through education in practical strategies for communication in pluralistic civil societies. We draw on academic theory in rhetoric, linguistics, and communication to provide people with tools to build bridges across differences.
Dialogue is the greatest weapon known to man to successfully dismantle such things as fear, ignorance, violence, and racism. It is the least expensive weapon in the world. It is free, and yet it remains the most overlooked and unused.Daryl Davis, Activist
Mutual Persuasion aims to address social problems through dialogue. We look to the example of Daryl Davis, a black musician and activist, who is best known for his purposeful engagement with the Klu Klux Klan in an attempt to help end racism through dialogue. Many of the dialogues were successful, resulting in several Klansmen denouncing the organization in favor of mutual understanding between races. If Davis can use dialogue to bridge the divide between him, a black man, and members of the Ku Klux Klan, perhaps we can all use dialogue to bridge the differences and recognize commonalities in our own lives.
We see polarization as a major problem facing America today. Tribalism and xenophobia have become formidable obstacles. The ability to communicate across differences is waning across our citizenry. America needs dialogue. America needs to be trained in mutual persuasion.
We believe complex problems can only be re-solved through ongoing, respectful, and inclusive dialogue. We think our academic fields can do a better job of addressing the complex problems of polarization through sharing the knowledge of effective communication with all people. We see a pressing need for rhetorical education focused on developing awareness of ourselves, our contexts, and the people we communicate with. We believe a rhetorical education can help open doors to understanding different perspectives. That’s why we founded the Mutual Persuasion Project.
We value sincerity and intellectual humility. We believe saying what you think can be an act of profound courage. We also believe that having the courage to admit that you might be wrong is a foundational skill of all sincere inquiry. We believe these two values are key to a productive understanding of human experience.
Mutual Persuasion is non-partisan. We therefore welcome participants from all political viewpoints. Our goal is to make sure that everyone has the communication tools to pursue their own goals in a pluralistic society. We won’t judge you if you support or oppose a particular political stance. We seek to empower people to advocate for their causes in a way that promotes mutual understanding and avoids polarization.
Mutual Persuasion believes that an ideal citizen has a well-rounded understanding of communication, and our mission is to provide that understanding to as many as possible. Through our work, Mutual Persuasion hopes to institutionalize the spirit of people like Daryl Davis, who see the power and necessity of communication in maintaining a society where unity and diversity can coexist.