People fail to get along because they fear each other;
they fear each other because they don't know each other;
they don't know each other because
they have not communicated with each other.
― Martin Luther King, Jr.
As Dr. King so eloquently reminds us, communication is at the heart of both disagreements and solidarity. Effective communication skills allow us to access the diversity of relationships, people, and perspectives around us.
We all want to communicate well with others, but sometimes it’s so hard! Listening and understanding the voices of others is work. Listening asks us to pause a personal agenda or perspective, and be vulnerable and open to what others are saying.
Here are some powerful tips from Teaching Tolerance about how to engage in difficult conversations.
Reiterate - Restate what you heard. This step enables students to reflect on what they have heard as opposed to what they think they may have heard. Repeating what they have heard limits miscommunication and misinformation.
Contemplate - Count to 10 before responding. Students can think about their responses and use the time to compose what they want to say. Taking time to think about their responses helps move students away from immediate emotional responses that can potentially derail the conversation.
Respire - Take a breath to check in with yourself. Suggesting students take a few breaths before responding may help them settle their thoughts and emotions during difficult conversations.
Communicate - Speak with compassion and thoughtfulness. Students should do their best to speak as they want to be spoken to, assuming good intentions and seeking understanding. Explain that when they disagree with something someone has said, they should focus on challenging the statement rather than the person who said it.
As we approach the busy holiday season, we invite you to take these communication tools and use them in your relationships with others.