Courageous Conversations

What is a courageous conversation? We have them all the time. We have them everywhere. We have them with students, colleagues, administrators, and parents. The conversations may be a two-minute conversation in the hallway or a conversation that takes place over the course of 20 days. The idea is that we engage in conversations that may make us not only uncomfortable but to walk away from a better person because we were able to learn from a differing perspective.

This idea of learning from one another sounds easy, after all, we are educators and pride ourselves in being lifelong learners. For the most part, we do learn from one another. That is until we are faced with an idea that may challenge our beliefs. I’m not talking about religious beliefs, but beliefs about yourself. What do you believe? There are no right or wrong beliefs, but we all have them. We probably don’t think about them much until our beliefs are challenged. And haven’t our beliefs been challenged this year? Yes!

We engage in discussions, maybe even battles over what we believe to be true. It feels like we are in a war of words whether we are engaging in a discussion via social media or talking to the TV. Yet, no matter or how we engage in our conversations we often walk away exasperated, defeated, and a little overwhelmed. I’m not here to change your beliefs, I am simply offering a suggestion when engaging in a courageous conversation. Listen. Yep, do not say a word. Seek First to Understand.

Listen with compassion. When you enter a conversation to change someone, you will be met with frustration. Listen to truly understand how another person’s point of view impacts them. Try to be aware of your thoughts while you are listening. When you are listening, are you not talking because you are listening or waiting to derail the other person by erupting with words that back your beliefs?

Listening with compassion takes time and practice. It begins with an awareness of your beliefs and emotions. Listening to understand. That means asking questions that help you to understand another person’s position. Find the positives. How does this differing point of view benefit people? Remember, there is no right or wrong belief. A belief is a thought you keep having and it is usually based on some sort of experience. We cannot relate to every experience, but we can relate to feelings. Find common ground with emotions. I come from rural Nebraska, not everyone can relate to my experiences, and when I went to UNL I could find common ground with someone that was from a city. However, we shared common feelings of being overwhelmed and feelings of belonging.

We may not all have common experiences, but we can find our common ground by listening with compassion and relating through emotions.

Let me know your thoughts.

Vicki Lentfer

Keynote Speaker

There is nothing I love more than to connect and engage with my audience on a personal level.

Vicki Lentfer

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