#61 – How to Have Difficult Conversations

Unpacking Education October 13, 2021 38 min

Privilege and the role that it plays in our relationships and communication styles implicitly and explicitly impacts how we manage difficult conversations. One of the things we often forget to recognize is that we all have stories—the narratives that we tell ourselves to understand our world. Instead of shying away from or ignoring conversations about challenging topics, we need to understand that how we think about race, class, and gender impact how we manage our place within the world. It’s important to recognize how these historical boundaries are placed on communities and have defined our views and regulate our responses.

Today, we are going to model how to have a difficult conversation between three people from different parts of the world, with different identities, experiences, and points of view.

We set boundaries you can use that are based around Glenn Singleton’s Courageous Conversations® Compass. Join us for an epic conversation that models how to deeply listen and, as Ijeoma Oluo describes in the quote below, add more pieces to the puzzle to make sense of this world.

Paul Beckermann
PreK-12 Digital Learning Specialist
Rena Clark
STEM Facilitator and Digital Learning Specialist
Dr. Winston Benjamin
Social Studies and English Language Arts Facilitator

Being privileged doesn’t mean that you are always wrong and people without privilege are always right. It means that there is a good chance you are missing a few very important pieces of the puzzle.

Ijeoma Oluo, author of So You Want to Talk About Race


The following resources are available on AVID Open Access to explore this topic in more depth:

Modeling Difficult Conversations on Challenging Topics

We all process information from different points depending on the context, but we have a baseline from which we operate. As our conversation unfolds, think about where you would place yourself on the compass. Refer to the The Compass video, in which Glenn Singleton discusses the Courageous Conversation Compass, to ground yourself in the concepts that we are discussing in this episode.

As a starting point, think about the Courageous Conversations Compass as a tool that can be used to guide people through difficult conversations. It helps us recognize where we are and label the direction our interlocutor(s) is coming from. Importantly, the compass helps us identify the sources of our emotions and actions, or lack thereof.

Here are the four points of the Courageous Conversations Compass:

  • Emotional (heart): You respond to information through feelings.
  • Intellectual (head): Your response to challenging topics may be characterized by a personal disconnect with the subject and a need to search for more data. Our intellectual response is often verbal and based in our thinking.
  • Moral (soul): You respond from a deep-seated belief that relates to the challenging topic or event. Justifications of one’s moral views might be seated in the gut and may not be verbally articulated.
  • Relational (hands and feet): You respond to challenging topics through actions and behaviors.

Join us as we explore the following questions from the different backgrounds and perspectives that our team brings with them:

  • How do you think our lived experiences impact how we listen and talk about race or other difficult topics?
  • What piece(s) of the puzzle do you think that you are missing because of your social and racial experiences?
  • As we think deeper about filling in the puzzle, how did you get insight into other communities?
  • How do we support people, especially students, to find windows* into other communities so that they can get a full picture of the world around them?

*Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop published an essay, Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors, which provided young readers with diverse books that reflect the multicultural nature of the world in which we live.