1) Set aside judgment temporarily. Seek first to understand.
Remaining neutral and avoiding judgment can be hard. However, we ask participants to suspend judgment during dialogue as much as possible because when judgment is set aside, an open space is created that recognizes and respects whatever the experience is. That open space lets others connect to your experience and it leads to understanding.
For example, instead of thinking, “I can’t believe she said that!” we encourage you to think also, “Let me understand where she is coming from when she said that.” Or when someone says, “I don’t see color,” instead of thinking, “That’s just ridiculous. How can you not see color?” you can seek to understand by asking, “What would it be like for you if you were to see color?”
2) Listen with the intent to understand.
For R.A.C.E. dialogue to be fruitful, it’s key to listen with the intent to understand what is being said rather than to respond or argue immediately. One way participants can begin to understand what’s being said is by checking for understanding: “What I hear you say is…” or “Do I hear you say…?”
3) Accept the truth in another’s experience.
In R.A.C.E. dialogue many stories are shared that are different from your own experiences. We ask you to accept that speakers have experienced their situations in the ways they describe them, even though they may not be how you would understand or experience them. For example, someone may share that all of their Arabic friends are foreign born. While there are Arabic Americans who are not foreign born, we accept their truth that all of this person’s Arabic friends are foreign born.
Accepting someone’s different truth that may be contradictory to your own doesn’t mean you disown a part of yourself. We ask you to recognize the multiple truths belonging to everyone and hold all of them as valid. The dialogue group and the dialogue experience can provide opportunities to hear different truths and wrestle with them so you can form new ways of thinking about race and dealing with race related issues.
4) Use “I” statements.
By using “I” statements, you as a speaker takes ownership of the messages you share. We have found the use of “I” statements to be powerful in two ways. Using “I” statements helps you as the speaker to share your lived experiences that will be accepted as truth, rather than something that is general and abstract and can be disputed. This different way of sharing can also be powerful to you as a speaker because it can provide insights and awarenesses that may be new to you. It also helps listeners to stay more open and to accept the truth in your story.
Here are two examples of “you statements” transformed into “I statements”:
A: “With so much that is going on in the media, people get tired of racism so they don’t talk about it” vs.
“With so much that is going on in the media, I get tired of racism so I don’t talk about it.”
B: “You don’t get to meet people who are different from you so you never learn” vs.
“I don’t get to meet people who are different from me so I never learn.”
5) Respect privacy.
We encourage you to share what you hear and learn in dialogue with others outside of the dialogue group. When doing so, please respect the privacy of the speakers by not using any names and preserving anonymity.
6) Expect and accept non-closure.
R.A.C.E. dialogues can grow very rich in content and can bring up strong emotions. There may not be enough time in 90 minutes for all thoughts and feelings to be shared each week or for things to reach resolution. Participants are always welcome to bring back to the group feelings, thoughts and questions from previous weeks. Sometimes clarity about a thought or feeling comes after sitting with it for a while.