Conversation Topics

Try to think of the last time you had a conversation that was not easy: How did you feel before you began talking? How did you feel once the conversation ended? Did you accomplish your goals? Using the resources provided below, we will examine ways to begin a difficult conversation, specifically related to diversity and inclusion. The aim of Columbia College is to provide tools to our faculty and staff to make these conversations meaningful and productive.

Wherever you are in the journey to build cultural competence, we encourage you to carefully read through this resource center and use this material to respectfully engage with your students and fellow staff.

Discussion Guidelines

Setting the Ground Rules
Navigating Triggering Conversations
  1. Listen actively — respect others when they are talking.
  2. Speak from your own experience instead of generalizing (“I” instead of “they,” “we,” and “you”).
  3. Do not be afraid to respectfully challenge one another by asking questions, but refrain from personal attacks — focus on ideas.
  4. Participate to the fullest of your ability — community growth depends on the inclusion of every individual voice.
  5. Instead of invalidating somebody else’s story with your own spin on their experience, share your own story and experience.
  6. The goal is not to agree — it is to gain a deeper understanding.
  7. Be conscious of body language and nonverbal responses: They can be as disrespectful as words.
Use PAIRS: Effective Dialogue Skills to help navigate conversations that may evoke strong emotions.
  • P: Pan the environment and yourself; describe what you notice or engage others based on what you see.
  • A: Ask about the specifics behind the person's comment or behavior.
  • I: Interrupt the dynamics. Take a breath and slow down the conversation to talk about what just happened.
  • R: Relate to the person or their comment/behavior.
  • S: Share about yourself or self-disclose with an example, your feelings in the moment, or the impact of the comment/behavior.

Conversation Topics

because a future built by you is a future built for you.

Too many people have been made to feel that higher education isn’t a place for them— that it is someone else’s dream. But we change all that. With individualized attention and ongoing support, we help you write a new story for the future where you play the starring role.