Our conversations in daily life are often challenged by difficulties such as gaslighting, grammar guarding and anger policing, but when you take time to listen, be sensitive to content, and see people for who they are, these conversations become much easier, according to Dr. Myisha Cherry.
UAB hosted Dr. Myisha Cherry to have a virtual talk called “On Conversations,” about why difficult conversations like racism are so hard to discuss.
“Her experience on getting conversations going on difficult subjects such as racism helps us learn how to engage with others instead of withdrawing or confronting without listening. She shows us how conversations with those we disagree with can be beneficial if done the right way,” said Dr. David K. Chan, chairman of the Department of Philosophy.
We, as people, often use speaking tactics Cherry says are “destructive moves.” Examples of this are gaslighting, anger policing, and grammar guarding. We find ourselves using these moves as ways to gain control of a conversation when instead, there are much healthier ways to communicate.
Cherry’s three ways to stop these destructive moves are to stop, do the opposite, and be sensitive to context, meaning to be intuitive and listen to yourself or the other person before responding in a way that pushes the conversation nowhere. Cherry believes we should always give people the benefit of the doubt.
We can do this by listening to others, telling people what we want, and educating ourselves and others for the better.
Cherry gave examples such as a cis male depending on women in his life to educate him on sexism, or a white person depending on a black person to inform them about racism. Instead, we can read, educate ourselves and share this information with other people, rather than put all of the work on someone else’s shoulders.
Another topic Cherry touched on was how we often have a distorted vision of other people, and because of that, we tend to treat people differently.
There are ways to get out of the habit of having distorted vision. Cherry gave some examples of seeing people for who they are, looking inward at yourself and changing how we see ourselves.
“No matter what background someone is from, there’s always something you can learn from them,” Cherry said.
I asked for Cherry’s advice on how to get over the fear of feeling inferior to your collegiate professors, something I believe students struggle with every day.
Cherry said she had this worry earlier in her career after graduate school. When starting her podcast, she invited professors to speak and was often afraid of not being taken seriously. She said the most important thing is to take yourself seriously first and be prepared, and that through doing these things for yourself often helps that fear of being inferior.
The biggest lesson through this talk was that looking inward and working on yourself, and seeing others results in easier conversations where you listen to the other person. This is how we educate ourselves and others by truly conversing in a manner that puts everyone first.