Another dot in the blogosphere?

Less chimpanzee, more bonobo

Posted on: August 2, 2021

Jason Feifer’s latest Build for Tomorrow podcast episode was Yes, Talk To Strangers!

Spotify source

It was somewhere in the middle of the episode that Feifer described how chimpanzees were generally more destructive and selfish. Bonobos, on the other hand, were more social and cooperative, even to those outside their social group.

This led to Feifer’s message on how to build bridging capital. In order to bring back stronger social bonds, he suggested three strategies when talking to strangers: 

  1. Acknowledge that you are breaking the rules (it is not normal to just start conversations with strangers)
  2. Break the script (do not go for the usual conversation-enders like the weather)
  3. Ask open-ended questions 

The same strategies work for teachers who wish to start critical conversations with their students. The dialogues might be about current, sensitive, or important topics. A topic that is all three is the recent attention on mental health of students following the killing of a 13-year-old in a Singapore school

Teachers and students are not strangers to one another. But it might be unusual to talk about personal issues instead of content in class. This is breaking the convention and the usual script. One way to keep conversations going is to facilitate the answering of open-ended questions.

In that sense, we could learn from our fellow apes: We should be less chimpanzee and more bonobo.

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