Author: August Clarke
One positive thing that came out of 2020 was the rise in activism and awareness for social movements like Black Lives Matter – which is great! With this, however, can come some challenges, especially when there are people who are committed to their opinions. Of course, we all desire acceptance, but some people who live in our society have different – and, often, dated – ideas of what that means. I’m sure you have probably had experiences with family members or other acquaintances who don’t have the most progressive of opinions. When these opinions come from people you are close to, it can cause a huge wedge in your relationship, and – speaking from experience – that’s a really tough thing to deal with.
Let’s explore some ways for handling these unpleasant interactions. As trailblazers for the next generation, we have a unique opportunity to educate those around us about equality and the fight against discrimination. Here are some tips on how to do so in a respectful and effective way.
Tip #1: Seek to educate, not attack
No one likes being attacked. The problem with taking an aggressive approach when confronting people about their opinions is that it will more than likely trigger a defensive reaction, and that doesn’t get anyone anywhere. The goal should not be to make the other person feel guilty or upset, but to calmly and directly address the concerns you have about the attitudes you want to challenge. Pulling in external facts or your personal experiences, rather than attacking the other person’s experiences, will likely help you have a more civilized and educational discussion than you otherwise would.
Tip #2: Always listen
You may not feel like listening to your uncle’s racist rants, but – if you are seeking a real discussion – this is a necessary step. If you don’t listen to what the other person has to say, they likely will not offer you the same respect. Listening shows that you care about what they have to say and that you are open-minded, encouraging them to enter the discussion with the same receptive attitude.
Tip #3: Draw attention to the emotional aspects of the situation
What I mean by this is to make statements about how this person’s comments and attitudes make you, and others around you, feel. You can stimulate a conversation by asking them to consider how they would feel if they were the one being discriminated against. Using “I” statements will help you communicate without attacking the other person. It’s important to remember that humans are empathetic beings. Using appeals to emotion might be effective in helping the other person see your side.
Tip #4: Pull in external sources
Sometimes the help of experts is needed. If they are open to it, suggest books or articles that address the issues you are concerned about. Of course, not everyone who is committed to their opinions want to change. In that case, I would suggest a more subtle approach. For example, if you are ever watching a movie together, you could suggest watching a film or documentary you know addresses the topic, such as “The Hate U Give” or “Just Mercy.” If the source education is also entertaining, they may be more receptive to it.
Tip #5: Be patient but consistent
Change takes time. It’s important to remember that. You are most likely not going to change anyone’s perspective over night. That’s why it’s important to remain patient but firm in your stance while helping someone make small steps towards change.
Tip #6: It’s okay to set boundaries
Dealing with conflict on a frequent basis is mentally draining. Challenging ignorant perspectives is important work but it’s also okay to set boundaries or take a break from these discussions when you need to. You can create boundaries by setting some conversation topics as off limits for a period of time. You may want to hide some posts from your social media feed or remove some people from your social media pages altogether. You can’t control what other people think and if these discussions are starting to have a negative impact on you, you need to prioritize your own mental wellbeing.
Confronting loved ones on their opinions you don’t agree with can be very intimidating and challenging, particularly when it is a source of tension in your relationship.
And there are some disagreements that you won’t be able to resolve, despite your best efforts. But change does happen and hopefully these tips will prove helpful as you navigate difficult conversations.
If you need to talk, ConnecTeen is here to listen.