From CRT to masks, and many issues in between, I hear people say, “we just can’t talk about this” or “don’t bring up….”
What if we start really taking time for uncomfortable conversations? On the other side of temporary discomfort, there may be lasting comfort.
It means sharing our own truth clearly and compassionately, engaging with genuine curiosity and allowing someone else the space to do the same.
I get it, it may be easier said than done, particularly when you feel passionate about an issue.
You have a reason for believing as you do. And so does the person who thinks differently than you.
Shutting down and avoiding conversations, leads to assumptions and judgment. You cannot experience true comfort or connection from a space of judgment.
We gain understanding through clear, compassionate, and curious dialogue.Taking the time to do so may create temporary discomfort, yet may lead to long-term comfort, and a greater sense of understanding.
Here’s a few tips:
- Before you approach the conversation, know your reasons. Then, when you meet with someone who thinks differently than you, get curious. Ask what needs they are trying to meet. Do so with a genuine desire to understand. “Please help me understand what you need ….” or “tell me what this means to you…” or “what leads you to believe …?” Remember, you are more likely to listen when you feel heard. The same holds true to whoever you are talking with as well.
- Before you talk about your reasons, clarify what you hear. Reflect what the person says in a neutral, non-judgmental way. For example, “You don’t think people should wear masks because…” or “You think people should wear masks because…”
This shows that you are listening to the actual words. It also gives someone a chance to clarify their thoughts. The person will likely say, “Yes,” “uh-huh,” or “no, I meant….”
- Finally, share what this issue means to you. What makes it important to you? Tell about any personal impact (without labeling another as “wrong” or “bad”). This means knowing your own needs and how you wish for them to be met.
We share a variety of needs, including safety, connection, and respect. Meeting those needs looks different to each of us. Dialogue helps us find common ground and opens space for brainstorming new ways to meet those needs. Or at a minimum, seeing the full humanity of the person who thinks differently.
When you listen fully, acknowledge what you heard, and then share, you notice that you have more in common than originally thought.
At a minimum, you gain a better understanding of the person behind the opinion.
What steps will you take to engage in a more challenging conversation, and move from discomfort to comfort?