Tips for tricky conversations

In the last couple weeks, prompted by the terrible murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and countless others, people across the world have been protesting and speaking up against ongoing racism and injustice.

As someone who walks through the world in a white body I know I can never understand what it’s like to experience everyday racism and the inequalities baked into our systems.

I’ve been spending a lot of time listening and reading. And I want to hear more, I want to understand better and continue the lifelong practice of being anti-racist.

One of the very small actions that I’ve been taking is to be braver in everyday conversations with the people around me. We need to be willing to dig into tricky conversations about race and privilege and the many emotions that go with that.

As a Speech and Language Therapist I’m always encouraging children to step outside their comfort zone and practice the communication skills that they find tricky. It feels a good time for us all to be practising the same.

I’d like to share with you some of the things that I bear in mind for any important conversation.

Tips for tricky conversations

1) Listen more than you speak. Approach the conversation with the aim to better understand, rather than to educate or convince.

2) Focus on ‘I’ sentences instead of ‘you’ sentences. This helps you communicate your ideas, without judgement or accusation.

3) Feel it in your body. When we attend to how our body is feeling, it helps us to formulate and articulate our own thoughts and feelings about a topic. When a conversation makes you feel uncomfortable that’s often a valuable clue that these are important topics worth grappling with.

3) Be patient. These are conversations we need to have for a long time. This isn’t about a quick correction, it’s an ongoing discussion.

4) Practice out loud and be willing to get in wrong. It’s easy to stay silent for fear of getting something wrong. But engaging in these conversations is too important to avoid.

I’m committed to having more conversations, so that I can learn and make a positive contribution. And I’d love to hear from you. If you’d like to share your perspective or signpost to other resources, please feel free to add to the comments below.

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