6 Tips for Tough Talks

6 Tips for Tough Talks

May 28, 2019
Category: Resource
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An African American high-school student talking to a White high-school student sitting on a stone wall outside in front of trees.

Having challenging conversations is a key part of creating a more inclusive, respectful community. To move forward, we all need to step out of our comfort zones and talk to people who think differently than we do.

With that in mind, NCCJ would like to share a few tips you may find helpful for having a respectful conversation with someone you don’t agree with:

  1. Listen actively. Don’t listen to form an opinion, or for what you want to hear. Listen to understand. Ask questions to clarify, but don’t interrupt.
  1. Stay calm. Hear something that makes your blood boil? Is your gut reaction to respond angrily? Slow down. Pause those spinning wheels and listen.
  1. Ask follow-up questions. This will help you get to know the person and understand their experiences and their values.
  1. Use “I” statements. When it’s your turn to speak, explain how you feel (“In my experience…” or “The way I see it…”) It goes a long way toward convincing others to listen to you.
  1. Avoid labels. Labels can be useful. They help us sort and categorize. But when we rely on labels to talk about others, it obscures the fact that we’re talking about people. About children. About families. About our neighbors.
  1. Don’t disconnect. You may have to agree to disagree, but don’t let it shut down the conversation.

Committing ourselves to the uncomfortable, frustrating work of talking to people we don’t agree with isn’t easy. It takes courage and compromise from both sides. But it’s the first step to finding solutions that work for all of us, not just some of us.