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What You Say and How You Say It


It's so easy to communicate with people these days via all kinds of channels, digital and otherwise. So easy to tell people what they're doing wrong and how they need to change. But how much of what you say will actually get through to anyone?


How you say it is every bit as important as what you say.


It's true, there are some people you'll never be able to get through to, people who will never really hear what you have to say about racism, sexism, privilege, cultural appropriation and so on. But some people will hear you, provided you approach them the right way. How you say your piece can make all the difference between them listening and learning, and them rejecting you out of hand.


I'll admit that I get just as angry as many other people about all the "isms" of the world. I want to scream at people who denigrate others, who perpetuate racist and classist and sexist systems. But screaming isn't helpful. We have to be calm. We have to speak reasonably to unreasonable people, because some of them will listen, but only if we're not shouting and scolding.


And we also have to be painfully honest with ourselves. Shouting someone down for prejudiced behavior may make you feel superior, but it does nothing to educate them or change their mind. It may not feel so good to be polite and patient with someone you think doesn't deserve it. But that kind of behavior will go much further toward actually changing their mind than belittling them will.


So take the time to reflect on why you're really having those conversations. Is it to make yourself feel better? Or is it to make the world a better place? Making the world a better place isn't always easy or fun, but it's definitely worth it.



Image: Conversation on the Terrace, Venice by Eugene de Blaas, public domain via Wikimedia Commons

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Copyright © 2020 by Laura Perry