Urban Hillbilly Elegy
June 25, 2020
I grew up in a small town in the Appalachian mountains surrounded by close friends and family with strong political opinions rooted in religion. I pulled up stakes years ago but many of my loved ones are still back home and still hold dear to the very conservative political opinions of the religious right.
Over the years, after broadening my perspectives and moving to the left, I would be careful to either avoid or diffuse political discussions to keep peace with the family. But my kids aren’t quite as conflict averse as their mother. Uncomfortable discussions with relatives are playing out on Facebook, one post and counter-post at a time.
This New York Times article dropped at the right time for me as I fretted about the most recent volley with family members. It includes some great guidance from psychologists to help us have productive conversations that don’t destroy family bonds. The tips include active listening, setting boundaries and one that really hit home: avoid having these tense discussions on social media. Oops.
Beyond the family, important and difficult conversations about race, politics and privilege are underway in the workplace. Having a trained facilitator is the ideal, but many companies and organizations rely on managers to lead. Effective guidelines for highly sensitive conversations include setting goals and perimeters and providing a safe environment for honesty. Committing to proven communications strategies will help ensure the time and effort invested in all the talk will ultimately lead to meaningful action.
It is a time for self-reflection, education, and often challenging conversation. We can’t shrink away from it, even with our favorite cousins.
June 25, 2020