May 9, students gathered with culture, arts and communications professor Dr. Riki Thompson to take on difficult topics at the Challenging Conversations in Challenging Times Workshop.
This interactive workshop was kicked-off with a Ted Talk by Tara Marcink entitled “The Power of Difficult Conversations.” Marcink talked about how to walk into a challenging conversation; her two main points were: research the other person’s point of view and start with an open mind.
After a portion of the video, class members paired up to brainstorm additional ways to have a successful thought-provoking talk. Students’ ideas tended to revolve around respect and being open minded. Class members discussed the importance of respecting the person behind the idea as well as trying to gain a deeper understanding of the person as a human being — rather than a label.
Thompson asked the class to think of questions to ask a person you may be disagreeing with. One of the questions the class agreed could be used to have a fruitful conversation about potentially sensitive topics was: “What life experiences have led you to think this?”
“We start to go to people and see labels and we start to become them,” Marcink said. “Then we start to hate the other side and be against them.”
The class seemed to reiterate Marcink’s wise words during the remainder of the workshop.
Though only an hour long, the Challenging Conversations in Challenging Times Workshop underlined a deep and important issue: If you go into a challenging or sensitive conversation with an open mind and respect, you can learn something even if you disagree with the other person.