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Race in America

“We need to talk about race in America.” 

I’ve heard that phrase often. Whether it’s a political candidate stumbling over whether or not to disavow an association with the Klu Klux Klan or a pastor of an almost-all-white-church stumbling through an awkward conversation… it’s something you say that makes it seem like you’re really interested when in fact you aren’t.

“We need to talk about race in America.” 

For me, I see this as a placeholder phrase. It’s slightly better than saying “uh, I dunno.

I think a lot of people truly are interested in cultivating change about race, but they just don’t know where to start. For me… it is intimidating because I am mostly ignorant of the way that society has privileged me. I find myself afraid to say the wrong things and consequently say nothing.

So perhaps instead of saying, “We need to talk about race in America” I should start saying, “I need to listen better about race in America”?

HABIT 5: SEEK FIRST TO UNDERSTAND, THEN TO BE UNDERSTOOD

If you’re like most people, you probably seek first to be understood; you want to get your point across. And in doing so, you may ignore the other person completely, pretend that you’re listening, selectively hear only certain parts of the conversation or attentively focus on only the words being said, but miss the meaning entirely. So why does this happen? Because most people listen with the intent to reply, not to understand. You listen to yourself as you prepare in your mind what you are going to say, the questions you are going to ask, etc. You filter everything you hear through your life experiences, your frame of reference. You check what you hear against your autobiography and see how it measures up. And consequently, you decide prematurely what the other person means before he/she finishes communicating. Do any of the following sound familiar?

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I can’t understand until I listen.

I can’t change until I understand.

By Adam McLane

Adam McLane is a partner at The Youth Cartel, co-author of A Parent's Guide to Understanding Social Media, blogger of 10+ years, and a fan of all things San Diego State University Aztecs.

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