Five Ways to Have Better Conversations Across Difference

Greater Good Science Center It's not easy, but we can find common ground in difficult conversations.

BY ADRIAN MICHAEL GREEN | JUNE 4, 2019

It’s hard to talk across differences in race, class, gender, political affiliation, sexual orientation, age, religion, ability, or any other kind of identity. We often lack the tools to help us graciously navigate conversations like these—and so we avoid having them. We just don’t talk, even though research shows diverse groups are more innovative, better at problem solving, more open to alternative viewpoints, and better off in the long run. (And it also turns out that avoiding these conversations can be toxic to our brains.)

As a diversity facilitator and former director of inclusivity at Colorado Academy (a pre-K–12 independent school), I’ve helped students, teachers, and parents find ways to enter these difficult yet critical discussions in all kinds of settings—at diversity conferences, through teaching an anti-bias social justice curriculum, and during professional development retreats.

Now, in my role as director of school engagement at Project Wayfinder—an organization focused on helping students develop a sense of identity and purpose—I continue to help schools thoughtfully navigate difficult conversations. These conversations invite students to reflect on who they are, what society expects of them, and how their identity informs their purpose. Here are five guiding perspectives I’ve learned from this work to make these difficult conversations just a little easier.

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