2005 Keynote Address

"Getting Present, Staying Present, and Inviting Presence: Preparing the Ground for Dialogic Connection When That Seems Least Possible."

Sallyann Roth
Sallyann Roth, MSW, is a founding member of and facilitator and trainer for the Public Conversations Project, Watertown, Massachusetts.  She was a Co-Director of the Family Institute of Cambridge (a training institute for family therapists) for over 16 years, where she co-developed its Program in Narrative Therapies and remains on the faculty.  She taught for many years in the masters programs at both Smith and Simmons Schools of Social Work, and is an Associate of the Taos Institute.  A consultant to the Interpersonal Skills Component of the Harvard Law School's Program on Negotiation, Sallyann also maintains a clinical practice in the Bostom area.
Her published work has focused on narrative inquiry, communication issues, couple therapy, and the work of the Public Conversations Project.  She serves on the Editorial Boards of Family Process, The International Journal of Narrative Therapy and Community Work, and Sistemas Familiares. 
Common to all of her work is a commitment to design, cultivate, and support ways for people who have been disconnected to connect through finding ways to speak what has seemed too difficult to speak and through hearing what has been too difficult to hear.  Her current writing and training focus on working to engender and facilitate inner and outer dialogues (encouraging a deeply experienced connection with sometimes censored dialogues and freshly emerging ones), the discover of choice where none was apparent, and helping people work toward their constructive enduring purposes. 
Getting Present, Staying Present, and Inviting Presence: Preparing the Ground for Dialogic Connection When That Seems Least Possible


What conditions make it possible for us--each of us--to listen with care, with generosity, and with full presence to those with whom we differ on issues of values, world views, and identity?  What conditions make it possible for us to listen and to speak openly and fully with those whom we see as opponents in a world--and in a time--when differences are so often expressed in silence and separation, or in acts of verbal and even physical violence?  What conditions make it possible to speak from our hearts about what matters to us and why--with those whom we perceive to be our opponents? 
The Public Conversations Project has been working to answer these questions since its inception in 1989, bringing together opponents on issues experienced as intractable.  Some premises that undergird that work form the heard of this talk: 
  • the way that we speak with each other shapes what we see as possible.
  • conversation that shifts relationships and stories (not positions), surfaces unnoticed and undeveloped possibilities.
  • collaborative preparation for difficult conversations invites connection
  • language matters.
This talk addresses specific ways that the PCP has put these premises into action and to invite reflection on how this will may be extended.