Students gathered to take on challenging conversations

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.