When You Listen… You Are Prepared to Be Changed by What You Hear

Compassion is your ally as you talk about diversity, inclusion and social justice.

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How do you bring up the subject of diversity, inclusion and social justice in a group… when you don’t know whether the reaction will be positive or negative? There’s no question that many people—however well-meaning—simply don’t know how to start or participation in such a conversation

There are numerous experiences and perspectives that may bring up deep emotions, even when people don’t want that to happen. Compassion is your ally, and it’s vital to meet people where they are… this includes yourself. 

You likely don’t know as much as you would like to about the experiences, perceptions and beliefs of others. That’s okay; don’t be afraid of this truth. 

Instead, model the reality that you are on a journey to learn and to understand. Your words should convey openness and genuine curiosity. Most importantly, you must be ready to grow and change. 

When you listen—truly listen—you are prepared to be changed by what you hear. 

If you simply hear what someone else says, but consistently maintain a rigid grip on your own beliefs and perceptions, you are not actually listening. Instead, you are most likely running a narrative in your head that contradicts everything you hear and substitutes your own beliefs.

To illustrate, here are the words you might use to open a genuine and productive conversation:

I’m inviting everyone here to share, openly, our thoughts and experiences around racial equity and equality for all. 

Understand it may not be comfortable; think of the discomfort as part of how we learn and grow. 

I know I have much to learn. I’ve inadvertently contributed to this current state. 

For now, let’s give ourselves permission not to find answers just yet, but rather to start the conversation with the intention to better understand each other. Do your best not to judge… it’s not about good, bad, right or wrong. 

Let’s honor each other by being willing to share our different experiences, to say what needs to be said, and to listen. When you listen… you are prepared to be changed by what you hear. Being heard helps the healing. It helps us to let go of what doesn’t serve us, to identify how we best support each other, and to grow stronger and better, together. 

What’s needing to happen will happen. There should be no pressure or guilt; you cannot control how others respond. If it’s not the right time, you will have at least set the stage. Hopefully though, in response to your open heart, folks will use their voice. 

Please give it a try. Be part of the solution and kindly share this, encouraging others to also say it skillfully. 

Created by Molly Tschang

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