#TakeaKnee: What’s missing?

If you’ve watched the news or been on social media lately you are fully aware of the controversy surrounding NFL players’ decision to kneel during the national anthem. Many have argued that kneeling spurns the value and respect the flag and anthem deserve, while others say that kneeling highlights America’s failure to uphold the virtues touted by the flag and anthem. The terse debate has led to name calling and insults that do little to foster understanding, or address the very issues that first ignited the act. Perhaps your efforts to discuss the subject has left you frustrated, more upset than when you first started, and at a loss for what to do next. We, at Race (+) Positive, believe that larger social issues such as race need to be discussed, but only exchanges that allow for honest reflection and positive engagement will truly be beneficial. If you want to elevate the tone and quality of your next discussion on this issue ask yourself these questions:

 

●       Why am I talking? Is it to pursue dialogue or simply oppose?

○       If it’s opposition, realize that it will likely breathe more animosity and tension between you and those with whom you disagree. If it’s dialogue, then focus on accurately communicating your view, deliberately seek to better understand opposing views by asking questions, offer and request evidence to support claims made, and recognize points of agreement.

 

●       Am I actually listening or just waiting for my turn to talk?

○       If you spend much of the time forming your rebuttal when the other person talks, then you’re not listening. Even if you “think you know where they are going,” it’s important to hear them say it. Attentive listening not only reduces misunderstanding, but it helps to find points of commonality. If nothing else, it offers others the courtesy you want them to give you. 

 

●        Do I need an emotional time out?  

○       The term safe space gets used a lot, but the responsibility for creating that space is your own. If you start to feel angry, frustrated, hurt, or sad give your emotions a name, as ignoring them only distresses you more. Then, take a deep breath or 20, mindfully focus on something in the present moment (i.e. the pen you’re holding, become aware of your feet in your shoes, the rise and fall of your chest as you breathe), and refocus on your reason for talking in the first place (see tip 1). If the exchange no longer feels productive, or you’re too emotional to continue request a timeout, regroup (i.e. take a walk, sing a song, watch something funny, talk to loved one about an unrelated topic), and try again later with your intent in mind.

 

Perhaps these tips strike you as passive or “conceding to the enemy.” But while overly aggressive responses, cheap shots, and emotional outbursts may make you feel stronger in the moment (a brief one at that!), it simply weakens your influence, as the valid points you make get lost in the noise. Still not convinced? Consider how happy you felt after your last angry exchange…then proceed.

Dr. Anica Camela Mulzac