Thanksgiving is a time for coming together with family to express gratitude, share stories, and enjoy a hearty meal. It’s also an opportunity to engage in meaningful conversations, even when those conversations involve sensitive topics.
If you find yourself with family members who aren’t as knowledgeable when it comes to DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion) this Thanksgiving, here are some tips to help you navigate those discussions with empathy and understanding.
1. Start with Empathy: Understanding that not everyone in your family may be as well-versed in DEI issues is essential. Begin the conversation by empathizing with their perspective. You don’t have to agree with their perspective to be able to understand where they are coming from. Remember, you were not always as educated on these topics as you are now. Patience is key.
2. Educate Yourself First: Before engaging in conversations, ensure you’re well-informed on the issues you speak on. Otherwise, taper what you talk about to that which you know about. This will empower you to provide accurate information, respond to questions, and address misconceptions with confidence.
3. Create a Safe Space: Establish an environment where everyone feels comfortable expressing their thoughts and asking questions without fear of judgment. Allow people to express themselves with you feeling the need to agree or disagree, like or dislike, and comment on everything. This encourages open dialogue and learning.
4. Active Listening: Practice active listening. This means truly hearing what your family members are saying and asking, rather than immediately countering with your viewpoint. Be patient and allow them to express their opinions. Don’t make the cardinal mistake of holding on to your reactions so tightly that you do not hear what is being said.
5. Avoid Confrontation: Avoid aggressive or confrontational approaches. Instead of telling someone they are wrong, ask questions to better understand where they are coming from and questions that prompt them to think critically about their beliefs. For example, “Can you share more about why you feel that way?”
6. Share Personal Stories: Sharing personal experiences and stories can make sensitive issues more relatable. It helps bridge the gap between statistics and real-world impact, making the issues more understandable. People more easily disagree with opinions and beliefs than a story about what someone shares they have experienced.
7. Use Everyday Examples: Use everyday examples that people can relate to. For instance, explain DEI concepts using analogies or stories from popular culture or personal experiences. When someone does not understand a point being made, share an example that helps bring the point to life.
8. Offer Resources: Recommend books, documentaries, and reputable websites as resources for family members interested in learning more about DEI. These resources can provide valuable information in a non-confrontational way. Be a source of knowledge.
9. Be Patient: Changing one’s perspective on DEI issues can take time. Be patient with your family members, and don’t expect immediate transformation. The goal is to plant seeds of understanding. Before trying to change people, seek to improve yourself. Instead of converting people to your views, focus on connecting with them.
10. Know When to Step Back: Sometimes, despite your best efforts, some family members may not be receptive to DEI discussions at that moment. Know when to step back and revisit the conversation at a later date. Know when to let go. Not everyone shares the same sense of urgency about topics as you do.
Handling conversations about DEI with your loved ones can be challenging, but it’s an opportunity for growth and understanding.
Remember that change takes time and that you can play a vital role in raising awareness and fostering a more inclusive environment. Approach these conversations with empathy, patience, and a commitment to educating and guiding your loved ones toward a better understanding of the importance of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.