A quick glance of the headlines reveals, we’re not all skilled at having difficult conversations. Whether it’s racial discrimination or sexual harassment, these aren’t easy topics to discuss, especially at work. Many people shy away from sensitive topics because they don’t want to offend anyone, or make a fool of themselves.
I understand the impulse. It spares you discomfort in the moment. But in reality, avoiding these conversations only prolongs the problems.
“The only way out is through.”
I’ve been watching the Facebook show, The Red Table. It’s a great model for handling sensitive issues. The show, hosted by Jada Pinkett Smith, her daughter Willow, and mother Adrienne, around a Red Table having candid conversations about sensitive issues.
One of the things I’ve found most valuable is the three generational perspective on women and race. Unlike an in-person conversation, watching the show enables me to listen without worrying about saying the wrong thing.
There are two things they do extremely well, which can be a model for any challenging conversation:
At The Red Table, there is no pretense of perfection. The women openly share their struggles, their challenges, and are frank about where they need to grow. When you consider they’re all public figures, it’s pretty astounding.Add in that Jada is Willow’s mother and Adrienne is Jada’s mother, and the level of candor is even more impressive. To be clear, they’re not gossiping or spilling ugly secrets, they’re having heartfelt conversation without judgment or blame.
If they can be that vulnerable and honest with each other, on camera, certainly the rest of us can up our game.When you’re discussing a sensitive topic, don’tbe afraid to be vulnerable, and don’t assume you have to have the answers. Suspend judgment; sometimes simply having the conversation is enough.
The Red Table is a model of truth and transparency. Pinkett Smith was inspired to launch the show after a few real and raw conversations with friends changed her own life. She says, “Everybody’s holding information all close to the chest. We really all have information for each other. If we would just talk to each other, we would know we’re not in this game alone.”