Start the Conversation
A Message from Co-Founder Karla Stephens-Tolstoy:
Over the years, I have become passionate about a number of different advocacy projects and causes. I was amazed at how many of them I knew little about before I started doing my own research and as my interest and desire for change grew, I wanted to tell others what I had learned and help to start conversations that could lead to solutions someday.
But, I really sucked at starting these conversations. I started off too aggressive - asking people if they knew human trafficking was happening in their own community in the middle of dinner parties. I asked parents how they were educating their kids so that did not fall prey and get caught up in a human trafficking without building up to the topic.
I quickly discovered this was not the right approach. My way of starting the conversation came across as insulting their parenting skills and scaring them into thinking their neighbourhood was full of predators lurking to steal their kids.
I have many stories like this and it took time to educate myself and learn from others how to bridge these conversations so that the listener is interested and able to engage in discussion.
So here are a few things I learned:
- People have their own priorities, opinions, beliefs and interests and it can be a fight just to start meaningful and open conversations about some issues - especially if those topics have been labeled as taboo, if there is a lot of controversy surrounding them, or if they have been misrepresented or ignored. You can't approach talking about these things as if you were discussing the weather.
- When people are set in their beliefs, they can shut down to new information that threatens to contradict those beliefs. It is important to respect others' opinions and beliefs while trying to convey information that they might not know.
- Be mindful of time and place and try to read signals from the other person. Mood and circumstance can have as much of an impact on whether people are open to listening than anything else.
- People are scared of what they do not know. There is a reason why many of us choose to live in a bubble surrounded by like minded people. Bubbles are safe and predictable. To move out of our comfort zone takes courage. To be led out takes trust.
- People are more open and honest with those they trust will listen and try to empathize with what they are saying. Our designs help you to show that you’re not only an advocate but that you can be an ally and support for people who have lived experience with these issues.
- We hear about hundreds of different causes from dozens of sources all the time. The ones that stick with us come by way of passionate people adding a personal touch. Statistics can be great to show the scope of an issue but nothing will have more impact than someone willing to open up and truly talk about where their passion comes from.
- We all come to learn in our own time. There was likely a time when you didn’t know or understand the importance of the issue that you're passionate about. Be grateful to those that are willing to listen but don’t be discouraged by those who aren’t ready yet.
- While people are moved by the emotion and humanity of an issue, this also needs to be backed up by cold hard facts. Have a few in your back pocket to show that you know what you’re talking about.
- Be open to any questions they may have and if you do not know an answer be honest and say, "Not sure, I can follow up and get back to you." Or google it in the moment.
- Once you have an eager listener, offer them resources where they can learn more. Don't feel that you need to completely get them on board with your cause in one conversation.
Conversations are what leads to change. Whether it is individuals coming together to improve their neighbourhood or governments enacting new laws and regulations, nothing can happen without people being open to honest conversations and respecting others’ points of view.