Navigating Your Way Through a Tough Conversation

And turning the tables on ignorance

Times are changing, fast. Ideals and behaviours from yesteryear that have long been buried in traditional practice are being hauled to the surface and challenged, asking us all to take a look at our personal opinions and beliefs towards issues prevalent in society. It might be tempting to wait for our government leaders, employers or anyone else in a position of authority to ‘sort things out’. But, let’s be honest – as individuals, it’s getting harder and harder to stick our heads in the sand, keep out of discussions and claim ignorance.

But are we ignorant? Scratching the surface on current affairs is one thing – by asking questions, challenging our own beliefs (no small feat!) and digging deeper than we normally would, we gain knowledge that will open our minds and usher in a whole new level of understanding, tolerance and even compassion. It may sound like a massive task, but all it takes is making time to gather with our friends and family, sit down together over a cup of tea and push the boundaries on topics we normally shy away from. Sharing points of view not only broadens our minds and perspectives, it also ensures we are clued in with facts from all angles.

marie claire recently teamed up with T2 in an initiative to encourage open dialogue between individuals to break down common assumptions that, too often, keep us in the dark. With pop-up boxes in Sydney’s Entertainment Quarter and Melbourne’s Federation Square, people passing by were invited in for open and honest discussions over a cup of tea.

With a warm brew in hand and a non-judgmental environment guaranteed, some hard-hitting subjects arose. Ageism, gender, culture and race, along with diversity and sexuality, were among the topics of discussion. We interviewed self-described ‘appearance activist’ Carly Findlay, who openly discussed the objectification of people living with a disability. Transgender woman AJ Clementine also sat down with us over a cuppa. AJ discussed the mania in society and media when it comes to opinions and stories being told about transgender people.

Conversations typically shrouded in controversy can be tricky to navigate as both raw nerves and passion points are often struck. However, by simply keeping a few tips in mind, even the most difficult discussions can become incredibly rewarding and insightful.

1. Recognise when you are making assumptions

Our predisposed ideas are not formed overnight. In fact, most of them would have been ingrained into us as tiny children by our immediate environment. It can be hard to recognise when our beliefs may be keeping us ignorant, however, by questioning the way we think and being open to exploring other truths, we can learn to stop labelling situations and, more importantly, people (ourselves included!).

2. Ask questions

It can be very uncomfortable getting vulnerable and admitting when we don’t know something, but asking questions not only increases knowledge, it also shows people that we are interested and we care. We can take our cue from the masters of learning – little kids – and drop all inhibitions to start asking ‘why?’ more often.

3. Keep it light

Even if the conversation gets heavy, it doesn’t mean the mood has to. If things start to get tense, a (well-placed) spot of humour is a great way to re-establish common ground. Offering tea and chocolate biscuits is also a surefire way to return to smiles.

4. Listen

Everyone has a backstory and experiences that have shaped them into the people they are. By keeping an open mind and an open heart when engaging with others, and really listening to what they have to say, insights into certain behaviours, fears and joys will be revealed, which in turn will foster more empathy and understanding.

5. Respect

We all have opinions and differing points of view, which displays how much diversity there is in the world. Showing respect towards others, despite our differences, is one of the greatest gifts we can give. And, if by chance we can get to a place of putting ourselves in the shoes of others, even for just a few minutes at a time, we will be well on our way to seeing the barriers of ignorance crumble.

Find out more ways you can help battle ignorance here.

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