Understanding and inclusion start with you. TFK talked with CARYL M. STERN, president and CEO of UNICEF U.S.A. and coauthor of a book called Hate Hurts. Here’s her advice on how to handle hurtful comments and find common ground.
Be a part of creating the world you want.
That means thinking and planning ahead. Do not wait until hate happens to talk about hate.
There’s no time limit for responding to a hurtful comment.
You don’t have to respond right in the moment. Sometimes, you are so angry or hurt or shocked that you can’t respond. Or sometimes, it would be such a public response that you would humiliate the offender. That might not be the best way to get them to hear what you have to say. Make a plan as to when you are going to respond, and follow through with it.
Open the ears of the listener.
Start by pointing out why you’re bothered and how you feel. Make sure the person knows that they matter enough for you to talk to them.
Use I statements, not you statements.
Explain to the offender that you are not talking about what they said. Explain that you are talking about how what they said made you feel. You are not trying to get them to defend what they said. You are trying to explain to them why it was hurtful. You can’t necessarily change a person in one conversation. And you can’t ask someone to change who they are. But you can ask them to change the way they act around you.
Learn how to ask questions.
I consider there to be two basic diversity skills. One is how to ask questions, the second is how to give answers. You want to be able to ask about things you don’t understand, but you need to know how to ask in the right way. Part of that comes from learning how to give answers and finding the right vocabulary.
Learn about cultures you know nothing about.
As a class project, look at what’s happening in your community to find out what’s different from what you normally do. What festivals, concerts, or plays are happening? How many different houses of worship are there? See if each of you can get the adults in your life to take you to one of them.