Vanessa McCourt, Academic Advisor and Undergraduate Program Coordinator in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies, talks about the importance of having courageous conversations.
I’ve never been one to speak up. I get red and flushed in the face, my underarms sweat, the right words don’t come, and I feel REALLY uncomfortable. So, for those reasons, when people have said something that I think is offensive – either directed to me or someone else – I usually keep quiet.
Fast forward 40 years (well, minus the two years before I could speak), I read a Facebook post that made me really upset. Then to my husband’s chagrin, I responded back with my own comments. Of course, this started a commenting frenzy of defending opinions.
The person who posted is my neighbor. The neighbor who is nice to my kids, a great mom, and all-around lovely person.
After about ten comments or so, my neighbor suggested that we needed to sit down together with a glass of wine and discuss our viewpoints on the issue. I agreed.
However, before we had that glass of wine, she posted AGAIN with her support for a certain ex-hockey commentator! I thought to myself, ‘we’ll probably need the whole bottle to get through this!’
We eventually sat down and talked. What I learned from that experience is that in order to undergo a process of unlearning, we must experience an embodied connection. Although we didn’t agree, our talk together cemented that connection – something a Facebook comment could never do.
In the Ted Talk entitled “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable,” Luvvie Ajayi says, “people and systems count on our silence to keep us exactly where we are.” I didn’t want to keep silent any longer. I didn’t want to stay where I was or have my neighbor stay stuck in her thoughts and opinions either.
What I also learned from Luvvie’s talk was the importance of asking myself three questions before speaking up:
- Do I mean it?
- Can I defend it?
- Can I say it with love?
I tried to keep this in mind when talking with my neighbor, and we are both better because of our talk. And, a glass of wine (or two) definitely helps!