Q: Schools are beginning to reopen and I’m thrilled for my kids. A bunch of my friends on Facebook have very opposite feelings. I feel like I can’t speak freely. The topic feels unavoidable. Everyone is talking about it and I don’t want to ruffle feathers.
A: These are interesting and challenging times indeed! Whether it be school, face masks, or politics, we are faced with responding to controversial topics. Conflict Coach, Cherrie Morris, says “it is often not WHAT we say but HOW w
e say it that matters.” Morris recommends; empathize, follow up with a query, then conclude with empathy while also adding your idea.
Start by saying things like “I see that perspective” and “I hear that’s very concerning for you given your health concerns”. Then, continue with what’s true for you: In our home, managing kids’ schooling, while we are working, is extremely difficult. Next, ask “How do you think the school could better address everyone’s concerns?”. Conclude with more empathy and your idea too: “I understand that you think continuing the status quo until we are all vaccinated feels safer and makes more sense. In our house, that would be very difficult because aside from parental inconvenience, our kids’ mental health is suffering too. I’m glad the county is offering in-person learning for families that need that choice.”
You can share your perspective while making clear you have room for another’s too. You may still face disagreement; even some who simply attack your point of view. If you are reluctant to face possible confrontation, say nothing at all! However, if you feel that you can manage a space for difference and even disagreement, 1) use common sense and empathy, 2) listen actively to what has been shared, then 3) responding concisely and respectfully. You’ve got this!
Originally posted in The Lakelands Leader in March 2021