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How to Prepare for the Conversation

Deciding to have a conversation across ideological or identity difference requires work long before the conversation happens. These conversations can be difficult, and so you want to go in with a clear sense of whether you are ready to have the conversation, what your triggers are, what your reactions can be, and how to engage with care. This module will look at how to examine those patterns and impulses in you in order to prepare well for the conversation you hope to have.

Preparing for Conversation

Activity 1

As you Weave, Having a sense of your own patterns and impulses that show up for you in the conversations you have is necessary in the work of trust building and harm reduction. It’s also helpful to model for your conversation partners that this work is just as much about self examination as it as about hearing other’s stories:

  • Think about the topic you’re hoping to connect around: perhaps it’s race, politics, religion, or something more specific. Grab a journal, pick a week, and keep that journal with you for the whole week: writing down every time you hear something about the topic you’ve chosen. Write not only what you heard, but how you reacted: what happened in your body? What thoughts or memories did this surface for you?

  • Take a day to consider other times you’ve tried to have a conversation about the topic you’ve chosen. How did it go? What made the conversation difficult? What helped you have a meaningful conversation about the topic, or what got in the way?

  • At the end of your week, take some time to look back over your journal and notice patterns. What reactions are typical for you around this type of conversation, and what sets those reactions off? What does your experience trying to have this kind of conversation before tell you about how to set the conversation up next time?

Having a sense of these patterns helps you to better show up in a conversation.

Activity 2

Weaving is a long game. It is not a fair or realistic expectation that you can show up to a conversation like this in every single moment. With that in mind, it helps to have a tool to check in with yourself about your capacity to have the type of conversation you’re hoping to have. This is also a beautiful way to model and invite care within the community you’re weaving with.

  • I am physically ready to show up to this conversation Check in with your body. Are you feeling settled and well enough to be present with yourself and others? Is your heart rate or breath racing with anxiety? Did you remember to eat, hydrate and sleep enough to be grounded and present?

  • I am intellectually ready to show up to this conversation Check in with your mind. Are you able to listen and engage with what people share? Is your mind preoccupied with the news or to-dos? Has a traumatic experience or difficult memory come up that has made following a train of thought difficult? Stress, grief, trauma and other factors impact how we focus, process and remember, and there’s no shame in giving your brain a break if it’s hitting a limit for now.

  • I am emotionally ready to show up to this conversation Check in with your feelings. Are you grounded enough to empathetically connect with others and allow their emotional experiences to co-exist with your own? Does a feeling (like jealousy, sadness, or rage) seem likely to overpower you from sitting with other people with other feelings? Are you having a hard time being aware of your own emotions, or which way they might go? We all have moments where responding to our own feelings needs to be the singular priority, and it’s okay to step back when that’s the case.

If you start to feel overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to reach out to your conversation partner and say, “Hey, I am not in a place to show up to this conversation as I’d like to today, so I’m wondering if we can reschedule?""

Test your knowledge

To prepare for conversation, it is advised that you prepare in the following way ahead of time: