Three Steps to Transform Difficult Conversations

It’s that time of year, lockdowns have eased around the country and socialising is back in full swing!

It’s great to be reunited with friends and family but, in a world where not even the weather is a safe topic of conversation, it can also be a time of potentially awkward and difficult conversations.

It’s an age-old dilemma: When Uncle Phil makes that inappropriate remark over lunch, do you let it slide or call him out?

What would an Ally do?

An Ally is someone who supports, empowers or stands up for another person or group of people. Through their actions, an Ally can effectively change attitudes, policies and practices that impact marginalised groups. 

As an Ally to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, when someone makes an inappropriate or racist remark, you will definitely want to call it out!

Of course you are also a member of a family, a team, a workplace, and maintaining your relationships are equally important to you.

The good news is that Evolve has developed a tried-and-tested model, that can be used at work and at home, to transform difficult conversations and strengthen relationships. It’s called the R3 Culture® Approach.

R3 Culture®  – A Practical Approach

Whenever a situation arises that raises a question, confusion or potential conflict you can use this approach to:

  • Reflect: Pause. Identify the issue.
  • Relate: Try to imagine how the other person might be feeling.
  • Reconcile: Design a way forward together.

Our Co-Director, Carla Rogers, is often asked as an Ally and non-Indigenous person how she handles those awkward, even racist  remarks – the one made by Uncle Phil for example.

“I always apply the 3Rs.  Reflect – this person has said something that differs from my worldview. Relate – stop to think where they might be coming from and then, Reconcile,” explains Carla.

“Always check that you feel safe first,” she cautions. “If I do, and it seems like the right time, I might ask if they are willing to share more about their view or comment (if appropriate), and then I would say something like “I have a different experience, would you like to hear my story?”. And then, only if they are interested, I would go on and share.”

In our Cultural Awareness workshops, we have people practice the R3 Approach with real-life scenarios. Below, Carla shares an example from her experience:

Why can’t they just get over it? Carla’s story.

I was delivering a workshop, and when asking if anyone had questions, one of the participants, Jan, raised her hand said:

“My 14-year-old daughter came home from school the other day upset about having to do this silly acknowledgement of Aboriginal people at the beginning of assembly. I actually agree with her. I don’t understand why they do this. Why can’t they just get over it and move on?” 

I was a little bit stunned, so I took a breath and applied the 3R’s.

Reflect: I reminded myself that I had invited ANY question and it was a good thing that Jan felt safe enough to ask.

Relate: While I’d only known her for a short period, from what I’d seen Jan was a kind and generous person. I didn’t think she meant to be dismissive. She genuinely didn’t understand.

Reconcile: If I’d had more time I would have invited Jan to reflect and find the answer for herself but, in this instance, we only had a few minutes spare and so I offered the following explanation:

“Jan, it’s not possible to move on from something that is still happening. Just recently one of our Indigenous facilitators shared how she had to always have her children immaculately presented. She spends hours ironing which is something I never worry about! She is so afraid of being judged a bad mother, and having her children taken from her. This is because she was a member of the Stolen Generation and was taken from her family at a young age. This terrible thing that happened in the past is still impacting her and her children. By Acknowledging Country, you and your daughter have an opportunity to participate in and share Indigenous culture and take a step towards Reconciliation.”

Jan nodded slowly and admitted she hadn’t thought about it like that before. She said she would go home and explain the importance of the Acknowledgement to her daughter.

?? Can you think of a scenario where the R3 Culture approach might help you to transform a difficult conversation and strengthen relationships? Share your examples in the comments.

You can download our FREE R3 Culture Guide below.

Curious to learn more about how we can help you create a stronger, more engaged and inclusive workplace? Book a call today to find out what we can do together.

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