Bridging Divides One Table at a Time

By Lyn Turknett

Co-founder & co-chair TLG

I’ve thought so much about division and healing in recent months and have thought especially about how each of us can lead the way. I have found some things that make me hopeful.  Bob and I talked in our Founders’ Letter last month about the Black Lives Matter sign initiative that was starting in our neighborhood. The initiative was an amazing success – what started as a hope by one person for 50 signs turned into an order for over a 1,000.  Seeing Mississippi change their flag, NASCAR become more welcoming, and Georgia pass a Hate Crimes law has also made me hopeful.

Just last week, though, I happened to be placed in a virtual breakout room hosted by my friend Theresa Spralling and hearing her describe the DINE! initiative made me more excited and hopeful than I’ve been in a long time. DINE! was started by one person – Rachel Simon – who was troubled by racial issues highlighted in  the summer of 2016. Rachel is Jewish, and decided to invite four coworkers at AT&T who were different in some way to lunch. There was minimal structure, but the meeting started with each person sharing their story in turn- their background and upbringing, how they are unique, how they see the world, and any life-changing experience they’d like to share. Each person shares without interruption before there are questions.

Rachel tells her story of coming up with the idea in a video. The video from Rachel is long but worth watching. One thing that likely helped this be successful at AT&T is that Randall Stephenson, CEO at the  time, had given a really passionate speech about racial tension in September of 2016.That likely helped ready the AT&T culture.

There have now been thousands of self-organized DINE! groups  at AT&T.  The website shows the format –    All lunches are virtual now, so it’s something all can do immediately.

Theresa Spralling

Theresa, who is also at AT&T, was passionate about the power of DINE! to bridge divides and strengthen relationships. Here’s what she says about the power of the process:

When you are intentional about genuinely getting to know people, a brave new world of listening, understanding, empathy, gratitude, alignment and respect automatically follow.  The DINE! experience has reinforced a notion that I have practiced and embraced.  I do not have to agree with you to get along with you and appreciate you.  When people are able to authentically communicate with each other, they better understand each other.  When they better understand each other, they work better with each other.  When they work better with each other, business thrives!

Final note from Lyn- The format works for ANY kind of difference – background, race, gender, profession, religion – and on and on. I absolutely know that many of us in the virtual breakout are now planning our own DINE! lunches – I hope to do my first one on July 29th.