In the era of movements such as #BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo and #TimesUp with the Trump administration’s separation of children from families at the border among many other issues there are some extremely important and uncomfortable conversations to be had. Whether those conversations are with friends, family or coworkers they must be had in order for systemic problems in our institutions and thoughts to change.
But those conversations can feel difficult–even impossible. But these conversations and movements cannot just be a trendy hashtag that you talk about on Twitter to fit in. Continue the conversation. We have some tips on how to have these uncomfortable conversations and ignite change.
Stay Grounded In Hope
Major tragedies and injustices can make us question our faith in humanity. It is easy to become cynical about everything and only see the darkness. But we have to believe we can create a better future in people’s lives. Without that hope how can you even begin to change anything? Make sure to have hopefulness grounded in your conversations.
Remain Open And Curious
Things that are new are scary. Beliefs different than ours are scary. But change can only happen when we are open and curious to new things-even if beliefs clash. You have to listen in on what someone you disagree with thinks in order to understand their beliefs.
If your conversation partner doesn’t want to listen to you at least brought your beliefs to the table and maybe they’ll think differently down the line. Or even five minutes after your conversation. These conversations should be in pursuit of making progress, not to be “right” or to “win.”
Patience And Resilience Is Key
Change doesn’t happen overnight. Your first conversation with someone is only the start of a long journey. It may be easy to give up if your conversation partner doesn’t agree with you right off the bat or says hurtful things. You have to learn from this discomfort and keep pushing.
Pick Your Battles
To make uncomfortable conversations worthwhile you have to strategize. You have to have a mindset, time, place, and person in mind. You don’t have to engage in difficult conversations every time a problematic comment is made–that can get tiring and negatively affect your mental health. The other person must be willing to hear you out to make it worthwhile.
Imagine A Better Future
When you engage with someone start the discussion by creating a vision of a future with them. Let your partner speak first and then explain your vision. Acknowledge your differences and where you have common ground. When you recognize some of the things you both think it is easier to work through your disagreements.
Notice The Tone
It is important to notice where your conversation partner is within the topic you are discussing. Process what they are saying and respond how you think they can hear out what you’re saying, relating to their experience. You cannot straight up attack someone for their behavior and expect them to listen to you–they will go in full defense mode.
Suggest A Call To Action
Once you share a vision to invite the person to act in a way that challenges them to consider a different way of thought. Suggest a particular article, book, event or protest, meeting, a particular podcast or a reflection. The actions you suggest may help this person challenge their beliefs and behaviors in the future.
However, you choose to have difficult conversations make sure to have them, whichever way you see fit for yourself. Having these conversations 24/7 is impossible and not healthy. And some days if you can’t have any type of difficult conversation at all–that’s okay. There’s always tomorrow. You got this.