Teams across the world are engaged in conversations around race, racism, white privilege and equity. These issues are complex and deeply emotional. That’s why:
- Organizations need to remain committed to open, honest dialogue that takes place over time. One conversation will not suffice.
- Leaders need to affirm the organization’s commitment to a better future, even if that means admitting that in the past they have fallen short.
- Likewise, leaders must pledge to work toward progress in tangible ways for a better future. Statements are great; actions are what really transform the world.
Given this set of commitments by the organization’s leaders, it’s important to go about these dialogues with intention and care.
- Identify the purpose of the conversation. Is the desired output to air perspectives, make decisions, create a policy, etc.?
- Agree to guidelines about how you will engage with each other:
- How will you communicate emotions? Highly emotional subjects can devolve into purely rational discussions, where people don’t feel comfortable to express how they feel. Staying in one’s heads won’t yield honest and open communication. Neither should the conversation be driven exclusively by emotions, with people free to emote however their feelings take them. Seek a balance that is honest about the feelings and the facts.
- Encourage listening with curiosity, not judgment
- Allow everyone an opportunity to speak
- Avoid assumptions or generalizations or expecting people to represent their “group”
Challenging conversations mean that people will make mistakes. That should be both expected and accepted as part of the “messy” work of taking on complicated and vital subjects. If people are truly interested in a better future, they will help others work through their mistakes. And they will accept that they themselves will not always communicate perfectly.
See this great article for tips of how to discuss race in the workplace.
Have some tried-and-true techniques for discussing touchy topics? Comment below or message us.
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