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Courageous Conversations in Times of Crisis

Updated: Sep 16, 2021

Good morning, leaders and teachers. I woke up this morning with the big question.

What will be of service today?

What will be of service today in light of what has happened yesterday (January 6, 2021)? And so I really just felt on my heart that people struggle with having these conversations about events like yesterday, with staff, and with students. I just really need to name: Please don't be that leader or teacher, that doesn't have even a short conversation. That doesn't acknowledge what happened yesterday.

It makes us look foolish when we don't because it's in the space. It's in the room. It's on everyone's mind.

This is a moment where we have to dig in to be more courageous, to somehow have the conversation, no matter how difficult. So, this is an offering of just a few short tips, a few pieces of nuggets of guidance to support us all in having these conversations today.

We have to be more intentional with what is happening right now.

1. Name that this is difficult

This is difficult for me to even know sometimes how to have this conversation.

So when you're starting off just simply model some vulnerability. Just comfort, just be real about what is about to happen in this conversation. That you don't know where it's necessarily going to go.

2. Set Ground Rules

You want to be able to name an anchor that we want to stay present.

We want to use the sacred pause where we take that deep breath and have a more skillful response. So we want to stop and give some thought before we speak.

Just name some of these ground rules, a key one is, maybe we won't be partisan.

Let's not have this conversation from a partisan perspective.

I've been using a particular ground rule for over 15 years now in my workshops:

We won't vilify white people.

We won't vilify people because we can have this conversation from a place of connection. To who we are as people that want to be better with each other.

Another ground rule:

Accept the discomfort just lean into it.

And, one of my all-time favorites that's offered by Glenn Singleton is:

Accept and expect non closure.

This conversation could lead to more questions and more future conversations than it will necessarily in solving something. This conversation is about helping us to process and connect as a community. Not necessarily to solve everything.

And then you want to invite folks, are there any other ground rules that you want us to be mindful of in our time together today?

So just simply name that and of course, you want to name confidentiality. That's absolutely key as well.

3. Open with a key question

How are you feeling?

I like to call it, “una palabra”, in one word, how are you feeling?

You can even provide a list of feeling words on the screen, in the chat, or a link to a document. Give folks time, 1 to 2 minutes to read over the list or to simply journal for a moment to process some of their feelings.

Then allow people to share that one word. If it's a really big group that maybe they just share it in the chat and you get a few voices. But if it's a smaller group than you just do it like a restorative circle. Have people say that word, and then you want to validate and affirm everyone's feelings.

No matter what, whether they're positive or negative feelings. The feeling is the feeling, and we don't want to discount that.

4. Have prompts to get people talking

What are you going to ask?

To support the conversation what kind of prompts might you actually use? You want to be prepared. What are some of the sentence starters that you can be using, and responses

that offer making this more skillful. There's a wonderful list that you can find here they're called silence breakers.

They were developed by Anika Nailah and Robin DiAngelo, and they help people lean into the uncertainty. You can even post a few of these. They help people with curiosity and humility.

You might open up with saying, “You know, I'm really nervous to say this, but…”

Another one around uncertainty: “I am afraid I might offend someone and please let me know if I do, but I want to be sure that I say this.”

“It feels risky to say this, but I'm going to say it anyway.”

So again, offering support for what people can use as tools in these conversations today. You don't need to come off like you're the expert and having this conversation. They're all difficult and they're all hard no matter how long you've been doing it. You don't know what's going to show up in the space.

You just bring that humility, you bring that vulnerability, and you bring your courage.

5. Close with connection

After you've had some sharing you want to start to close the time together based on what's been shared.

You can open with “based on what we shared and heard today, what do you feel like you need moving forward?” Let people bring voice to that, and name that you're just listening so that you can honor what they're sharing moving forward. Then anchor back to it later as things progress

for you all as a community.

Then you want to end with some loving kindness. End with connection.

And so maybe we end with one minute of just simply breathing together, being in some

silence, and then offering that loving kindness:

May we all be healthy.

May we all be happy

May we all be at peace

How is it that you can bring the group to wholeness and a feeling of connection not full agreement?

Just simply connection.

So this conversation that you might have to have today can be 20 minutes. It might be 30 minutes. If you're blessed with some time, it'll be 45 to 60, but somehow you must bring it into the space today.

What I just took you through can really be done in about 15 to 20 minutes.

I hope that this has been helpful for you today. It's definitely not perfect. It was just all my heart to share, and offer some encouragement, and some inspiration, and just a few little tools and tips to get you through this difficult time as leaders and teachers today.

There's always more than one way to do this.

Feel free to put that in the comments and share with people. Circle back to this.

How did you do this today?

You need your courage today, and in courageous leadership practice makes progress. It doesn't make perfect because it just doesn't exist in courageous leadership. Practice makes progress.

Our work is sacred and so are we. I love you.

Peace and blessings.

PS You can watch my video on this at

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