‘I promised myself I would listen better after my failure last time and I’m proud of myself. I was able to listen tonight even though I disagree.’ Civilian participant, To Protect Serve and Understand
At the Irondale performance space in Brooklyn something unique and a little bit wonderful is going on. People are listening to each other. People are struggling and working very hard to be understood. Only a few weeks ago these same people entered the theater with fear and to some extent loathing the “other”. Watching the struggle itself is the little-bit-wonderful part. The unique part is that the participants working so hard are New York City cops and residents of various communities from Harlem to Brooklyn. And they are doing this hard work with the greatest sense of joy. This is serious play.
In 2015 the world watched a Staten Island man get strangled to death by police officers as he gasped “I can’t breathe”. Tension between police and community members stood in the way of public safety and trust and at the core was fear. Communication, real communication had broken down. When we offered our help as communication experts and theatre artists to NYPD Commissioner Bratton, he took us up on it. And so, since 2015, for 10 weeks at a time, police officers and civilians bravely learn to improvise, not for comedy but to better find the common ground beneath the uniforms, skin color, class and perceptions of the “other”. They may never reach agreement; understanding is enough.
Improv exercises help us stay in the moment. They slow us down and force us to detach from our passionate opinions so that we can actually hear the other person. They force us to be specific about what we want to say, especially when we feel so strongly about the issue we are discussing. That’s where real communication happens. You can’t force empathy but you can create the conditions for people to find it in themselves. That’s what we do at Irondale and that’s what Exact Communication can bring to you, whether you are a scientist, a business person or an academic. Exact Communication workshops will meet your needs and solve your communication problems.
Irondale has been doing this kind of work for 40 years. And now we have created Exact Communication to bring this same expertise, rigor and passion to a whole new clientele.
To learn more about Exact Communication’s programs keep exploring our website
To learn more about To Protect, Serve and Understand visit the Irondale website. www.irondale.org
Be heard. Have an impact. Make a difference