“Gateways to Inclusion: Turning Tense Moments Into Productive Conversations”

Interesting situation, isn’t it? Two people, both well meaning, abruptly embroiled in a sticky conversation at the end of a workshop that – when you see the entire video you’ll learn – was on respectful communication of all things! diversity dialogue

This is a classic situation that could have easily been turned around if both parties had practiced the 4th of the skills featured in the Gateways to Inclusion video: Communicate in a way that demonstrates respect. What might respect have looked like in this case?

First, Connie – the woman who was disturbed by the use of the term “guys” — might have taken a moment before jumping to the conclusion that the trainer (Henrietta) was sexist just because of the choice of a word. Also, Connie might have approached Henrietta in private rather than risk embarrassing her in front of the group.  

Henrietta, too, has something to learn about how to communicate with respect. Her phrase, “You’ve got to be kidding” essentially shouted into the room, “Connie has no right to feel the way she does!” Talk about disrespectful! Sure, Connie may be off-base, but she feels what she feels. It’s the ultimate disrespect to deny her that right. A far better choice would have been for Henrietta to say something like, “Thanks so much for telling me how you feel, I really appreciate your speaking up.”

Henrietta might have demonstrated still more respect by inviting Connie to talk about the problem further. She could, for example, say, “I’d love to talk with you about it, do you have a few minutes to chat after class?” or “I’m really sorry if what I said made you uncomfortable, I’d really like to talk about what happened.”

I know, I know – this kind of wording may feel a little stilted and uncomfortable at first.  But, as I’m sure you’ve experienced with other things, any new behavior – or new choice of words – can seem awkward when you first try it. Keep at it – eventually the practice – and the rewards – will make respectful responses like these second nature.

Finally, Henrietta can show respect by practicing what I call “engaged listening.” This means that, when she and Connie sit down to talk, Henrietta removes all distractions and really focuses on what Connie has to say. No cell phone, no looking at her watch, no gazing around the room – Connie and her discomfort become the center of Henrietta’s world.

These simple acts of respect are powerful tools for breaking down the barriers to good communication. The result? Two women who are comfortable really listening – and considering — each other’s point of view. It doesn’t get better than that.

 Click Here to preview the entire training video, Gateways to Inclusion: Turning Tense Moments into Productive Conversations.

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