Tonight was the last session of an anti-racism series through our church. The series in of itself is something that I’m very grateful for, but that’ll most likely be a blog topic for a later date. I’ve got a lot of thoughts fermenting in my brain before I’m ready to write that one.
In part of the discussion someone mentioned a line of thought that reminded me of some excellent advice from a while back. While I don’t feel it appropriate to get into the details the concept itself is what is truly important.
If someone has an idea different than mine I have a tendency to do my best to talk them into my idea. I mean, c’mon, it’s MY idea and viewpoint, so it must be right… right? When I do my best to make my point over and over and over again how often does it actually cause lasting change? Not often. Not only that, but it seems like the other person is much more likely to dig their heels in and push back.
Why doesn’t it work? Because I’m typically making a ton of assumptions and taking it 100% from my perspective.
The excellent advice that really stuck in my head was the concept of seek first to understand, then to be understood. Instead of immediately springing into action and sharing my opinion I need to remember to act with true, heartfelt, and honest curiosity. “Tell me more about that.” “Why do you feel that way?” “How did you come to this perspective?” “What do you feel is truly at the heart of the situation?” Those are the place to really start the conversation.
Odds are that their answer is different than the assumption I’ve already created in my brain. I don’t fully understand their situation and most likely never will completely. By learning more I can sometimes find that the core issue is something much different than I thought. I need to remember to ask and listen intently if I am to truly learn.
Additionally, I’ve just gone through an anti-racism workshop series, read a couple of books, and listened to some podcasts. My brain is primed to see a specific issue first because it has been top of mind. Instead of immediately assuming racism I need to learn more to see if that is truly the issue. Maybe it is, but maybe it is something different. Maybe it’s an issue of safety, socio-economic challenges, or something else.
If I just dive in and attempt to assert my viewpoint it will not only not move the other person, it will most likely further open the divide between us. By taking time to understand first I can at least make sure we’re both looking across the same canyon before finding a way to build a bridge to the other side.
Whew, that just went way longer than I expected and also didn’t cover the detail I can see in my head as well as I’d hoped it would. Long story short, the concept fo seeking first to understand and then to be understood will be top of mind as I interact with others moving forward.