The Difficult Conversation
The time is drawing nigh to have intentional and measured conversations about a polarizing, and maybe even uncomfortable, big ol’ elephant in the room type topic: The Reopening of Voice Studios for In-Person Lessons.
I’ve been watching conversations become highly charged in the last few weeks, and found myself having to actively resist becoming charged with them. As if it wasn’t hard enough to read tone on the internet, the collective MERP of the world isn’t helping much.
Some self-assessment has occurred, in which I challenged my own beliefs. (Don’t believe everything you think!).
I’m generally a responsive person, rather than a reactive person – yet I found myself dangerously close to going bonker pants from a place of fear and irrational irritation around things – from the store having no refried beans, to my kiddos using too many towels, to discussing re-opening.
Engage in Difficult Conversation, beginning with Reflection
When I feel that fear-itation sneak in, I know, for me, it’s time for some reflection.
Because that’s just not who I choose to be.
Born of this reflection, I humbly share “The Ten Commitments to Conversation” that I have made for myself, and I offer to us as a field, and as fellow humans in this journey that none of us signed up for.
I am making these Commitments on how I choose to engage in these conversations, and on how I will lead them.
Friends: These conversations need to happen.
When they begin, would you join me in committing to having them in a respectful, useful way? A way that will leave room for appropriate judgment calls (room to be discerning) while avoiding judgment (thinking ill of any person).
This is meant to open a conversation and bring safety into what can feel like a very, very unsafe conversation.
I’m calling out what I see: How are we to come up with real solutions that are appropriate for us as individuals if we can’t even express “I am thinking about re-opening” without being piled upon or called a murderer? (Yes, indeed, I read a thread in which this happened. This is not acceptable conversation, in my opinion.)
Anywho, here are my “Ten Commitments to Conversation”. Perhaps they will help you, too?
Michelle’s “Ten Commitments to Conversation”
- I commit to believing the best of my colleagues. I commit to believing that no person will intentionally put another person in harm’s way and that all questions are coming from a place of care for students and communities.
- I commit to understanding context and refraining from imposing my own context on others. I understand that where I live and the data associated with where I live has an influence on my experience with COVID and reopening and that my local lockdown/sheltering/reopening guidelines may or may not apply to another person’s context.
- I commit to the deep knowing that my colleagues all have deeply personal reasons for exploring staying online or reopening for in person lessons and that it is not my role to assume I know all the details or think ill of those who are exploring all options.
- I commit to answering questions from a place of genuine care and desire to help process through ideas, with language that allows for all viewpoints to be expressed, whether I agree with said viewpoints or not. I will give information to the best of my knowledge and will pose my thoughts carefully without snark or condescension.
- I commit to an open mind. I choose to engage conversation as a way to truly learn about new tools, techniques, procedures, and processes that could allow for safe interactions for all.
- I commit to checking my own biases, fears, and narratives as I engage in conversations. I will remember that not everyone thinks what I think, stands where I stand, or, frankly, votes the way I vote.
- I commit to kindness. No matter how vehemently I disagree, I will remain kind. I will not use put-downs or name-calling.
- I commit to making decisions based on data rather than my biased opinion. I commit to weighing all my options from an informed perspective.
- I commit to leaving a conversation when I can no longer engage in a useful, calm, non-asshat way.
- I commit to trusting that my colleagues are smart and that we make decisions well by allowing information to inform and change our beliefs.
I will not claim to have all the answers, but it felt to me that something had to be said because some grand innovation could be had if we were willing to throw some spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks.
While I am certainly no expert in virology, I do feel within my scope offering frameworks for engaging in active listening, facilitating difficult conversation, and moderation of panel-type discussions.
If you have an additional commitment, or a more clear wording that could make the commitments even more usable, as an individual, I encourage you to add your own, or comment below.
Have a wonderful weekend, voice peeps.
P.S. If you’d like to join me in The Commitments, you can download a PDF of them. Print them up, hang them up, live them up!