While working for American Airlines, Jonathan realized he didn’t have enough time to fully enjoy each destination he traveled to. That’s when he decided to focus on people instead. Meeting and connecting with at least one person on his journeys blossomed into a philosophy.
Jonathan noticed that the more he listened and the more people he connected with that had different points of view and different values, the more he learned and the more he grew as a person.
He continued this practice until the Covid lockdown and then, instead of stopping, he decided to find people in his community to connect with. He began interviewing and active listening in earnest, driving twenty minutes to five hours in order to meet with people.
Jonathan took advantage of the division and polarization that people were feeling, attempting to fix as much as he could. This is his cause. Conversational Activism. He wants to face division head-on to right the wrong.
Jonathan realizes that the easy thing to do, when faced with someone who has a difference of opinion is to say: “They’re different from me. I disagree with them or they don’t see things how I see them. And that’s fine. Let’s just agree to disagree.” And he knows we’ve all heard that, but he thinks that’s wrong.
He thinks that’s the wrong approach. He started conversations as an activism because the only way that we can come together and the only way that we can fight this division that we have is by sitting down and actually having a conversation with those that we disagree with. Those that are different than us and talking, sitting down and talking to these people, not with the intent of arguing or debating, or even trying to change their minds or convince them otherwise. Not at all. The point of the conversation is to learn from them. Learn and listen with the intent to find something in common with them.
This is what he’s dedicated his life to. He’s not a journalist. He’s not a politician. He doesn’t work for any newspaper. None of this is his profession. He’s an aviation engineer, but that’s just the thing, that’s what qualifies him to do this. It’s that he doesn’t have an agenda. He considers himself a no-one. That’s what qualifies him to have these conversations, because if we really want to see change in unity, it’s not going to come from our leaders. It’s not going to come from the people on top. It’s going to come from you and me.
The people he listens to feel the way they do for a reason, and that’s valid. He listens to their journey. When was it that they made the decision about what they were going to stand for? When he finds that, he finds a reflection of himself.
Jonathan’s conversational activism began when a very close friend of his approached him one day before the election and said, “Hey, we’ve never talked about this but this is how I feel about what’s going on in the world today, revolving around the election and stuff.”
And Jonathan responded with, “okay, great!” And his friend was expecting him to react or something, because they were on opposite ends. But Jonathan told him that they were friends before he shared his opposing view, so why would anything be different after? It didn’t matter who each person voted for when they became friends, so why should it matter now?
On a smaller level, he compares the world’s division to that of a classroom, where you walk into the classroom and it’s divided. On one side, there is one group. And on the other side there is a different group. When you walk into the classroom, the environment is gravitating you to join one side. If we go to the left, we’ll be in that group. And we’ll have a support system because we have the people that are on that side, they’ll have our back and then we can attack the other side together. We can say whatever we want about the other side, because we don’t need to worry about them. We have our own support system. That’s the easy thing to do.
And that’s what Jonathan perceives the problem to be. Nowadays it’s so easy to say that HE believe this and they believe that. But he’s never been one to blame. He doesn’t point fingers at the media and claim it’s their fault, etc. Jonathan sees that a lot of the problems in the world are direct reflections of us. There’s not one person to blame, it’s all of us for jumping on one particular bandwagon.
The hardest thing to do is to actually sit there and listen to both sides, and try to comprehend, try to understand them. And it’s liberating. It’s liberating, and it’s true freedom to be able to decide for yourself, or just simply listen without the lens of “they are wrong and I am right”.
Really be who you want to be instead of representing just one side, which is polarizing.
So in his conversations the thing he looks for is the commonality. He tres to find something that they can both share. A passion, an interest…. whatever. Something that they can find in common. But if he can’t find that, he simply listens.
During most of the conversation, he is not talking at all. He’s just listening. They’re controlling the narrative. They’re the ones that are directing the conversation, and that’s fine. Usually it begins a little intense in the sense that they really want to throw their ideas on him, their opinions, and maybe they want to get a reaction out of him.
And as hard as it is, he doesn’t react because he’s there to listen. Jonathan doesn’t mince words. He’s the first to admit that it’s hard to just listen. Just listen and hold space for them and their views or even their anger. But he needs to stay true to that, to witnessing, otherwise it would compromise his mission. He’s not there to debate them, he’s there to listen. But he’s not there to compromise his own beliefs either.
The people he listens to feel the way they do for a reason, and that’s valid. That’s what he attempts to find. He listens to their journey, and listens to their life. What was it that led them to this point? What happened in their life for them to think the way that they do? Or when was it that they made the decision about who they’re going to be, and what they’re going to stand for? He tries to find that. And in doing so, he finds a reflection of himself because like you, like all of us, they’ve had to make that decision. At some point, we all had to make the decision as to what stance we want to have. What do we want to stand for? Or what don’t we want to stand for? Same idea. So he tries to find that. And when he does, he finds himself. At that moment, that’s where we can find the commonality.
When he finds that, he creates what he calls the “leaving the room effect”. In that moment he no longer sees them as someone different and they no longer see him as someone different, each person sees one another as the same. And that’s when the conversation is complete, no matter how long it takes.
So essentially when he leaves the room, he leaves that effect with them. They will still probably have different beliefs. Neither person changed their minds about anything, but they can look back and they can say, “you know what, Jonathan, he’s different, but I like him. He’s a good guy. He listened to me.” And that’s the moment where he creates change and impact. And essentially he can change the world with every conversation he has. If he focuses on that commonality and lets that be the narrative and nothing else.
Jonathan is dedicating his life to this because it’s going to take a lifetime of conversations to be able to do this. But, he’d rather create lasting impact and plant a seed then something that may be instantaneous. Instant results come from arguments and debate which can be an attack and the easy route. The hard thing is to have these conversations.
I’m (KA) going to assert my own “opinion” here as a fiction writer and past TV producer/writer. In fiction and storytelling we are trained to see things in black and white. There is always a hero who is fighting a villain. But what if we’ve taken that too far? What if we’ve looked for that in our personal lives too? That would mean that anyone who doesn’t believe what we believe is a villain. But in reality, life is not black and white and nothing is that simple.
Jonathan believes that division has always existed. But it’s become something that’s so much a part of our lives that it’s becoming harder and harder to avoid it. Harder not to indulge in it. He thinks that 2020 was not the result, but rather like the cherry on top.
But Jonathan firmly believes that there’s always hope. There’s always optimism. That’s why he’s doing what he’s doing. Because if all hope was lost, then there wouldn’t be a point.
And in healing our country, we have to treat it seriously. We have to treat it as an activism, because division is the second pandemic that we’re going through. It’s that big.
Find Jonathan here! Click on his linktree for all his info :)
Hi, I'm Kimberly Anne! (aka K.A.)
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