Keep the Conversation Going
The past few weeks as Black Lives Matter protests continue across the country, many different topics have been at the forefront of discussion. Many have also taken stances on social media to raise awareness and offer platforms for education and systemic change. If you haven’t yet, check out our last post, What Can I Do, for some suggestions on how to be a part of the change.
Needless to say, these past few weeks have created a movement, but it is crucial that we do not let the momentum die. As news outlets start to cover other topics, and social media starts to return to ‘normal,’ we cannot just simply let the conversation fade away. We must remember that racism is real, and we still have work to do. Black Lives Matter is a movement, not a moment.
Discussing racism can be difficult. Many of us are never taught how to have these conversations. However, there are many ways we can learn, and as leaders, we have a responsibility to practice them. On our Instagram, we have been highlighting some tips, and below are some ways to hold productive conversations on tough topics.
When you’re having a conversation, keep these tips in mind:
- Be curious – Genuinely take an interest in what the other person has to say. Too often, we enter a conversation hoping to persuade the other person or prove a point. We must remember that it is a conversation, not a debate. When we engage with curiosity, we enable ourselves to learn so much more.
- Assess your biases – We all hold biases. It is a part of how our brains develop and make sense of the world, but we must be aware of the ones that we hold. Becoming aware of them helps us gauge how they impact our views and conversations.
- Respect is key – In any crucial conversations, respect is of the utmost importance. You can still respect the person, but disagree with their idea.
- Stay the course – It can be easy to get swept up or let emotions take control when conversations get tough. Take a few breaths, ground yourself, and remember what the goal of the conversation is.
- Thank the person – When you come to the end of a conversation, thank the person. No matter how easy or hard the conversation is, most likely, one discussion won’t be enough to fully understand one another. Whether this is just the start or a one time thing, make sure you thank them for engaging.
When holding conversations, remember that listening is just as important as talking. Here are some ways to be a better listener:
- Pay attention – When you’re listening to someone, give them your undivided attention! Push aside those distracting thoughts to be present. Sometimes you might need to check yourself. That is okay!
- Demonstrate interest – Show that you are listening by keeping eye contact and leaning in.
- Listen to understand – Defer your judgments while listening so that you aren’t just listening to reply, but listening to learn.
Whether a conversation is one that you anticipate will be “tough” or not, we all can use the practice to develop the skills needed in the tips provided above. As quick as we are to fear an anticipated tough conversation, we can also turn an easy conversation tough if we don’t utilize these skills regularly. We all have been in a situation where either we or someone we know has done this – stopped listening, interrupted someone, only tried to convince everyone of our point of view – with something as simple as picking a place to eat! So this week, challenge yourself to:
- Reflect on some ways you can become better at having conversations.
- Using the tips above, what is one area you can improve in?
- What is one way you can become a better listener?
- Set a goal this week to practice any of these when you have any conversations!