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Dialogue for Environmental Protection

by Jean Holsten

Dialogue Skills Beneficial to Environmental Protection Projects

As an attorney, I was very successful in advocating for my clients. For me those successes though felt somewhat hallow. My area was land use and environmental law and I usually worked with citizen groups seeking environmental mitigations for big developments. In my capacity, I could stop a project or even encourage more stringent environmental protections but often it would have been at the expense of jobs, economic development or easy transportation access. It was often a zero-sum game with winners and losers.


It seemed to me we were missing the opportunity to develop projects that met all the needs of the community in a way that worked for most, if not all the people impacted. I had no idea how to change the way we interacted and to make the goal of the work mutually beneficial. Dialogue skills and practices were the key; they are the key. This set of practices continues to grow me as a person.  I have learned how to listen more carefully, to be willing to change based on what I heard and to look for ways for all the needs to be met. I have to say the successes I enjoy in all aspects of my life are both rich and enriching, and not just for me.

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