Communicating with Your
Try to answer the intent of the question. Think about where it’s coming
from. Listen. Ask again.
Don’t over-intellectualize or pontificate. Stay down to earth. People
usually respond much better to experience than to facts.
Being yourself is powerful. Be vulnerable and human. You really have
nothing to lose. Be very honest when you answer them. And when you
don’t answer, tell them why.
Treat every question with respect, no matter how it is asked or how
dumb it might seem to you. If you are attacked (as in “Why don’t you
form your own country and get out of here, since no one wants you here
anyway?”), look for a reasonable, rational question to answer – one
that’s within the context of the question asked. Stay calm.
Diffuse anger by refusing to participate. You are not there to prove
anything – only to educate. Stay calm, continue to answer in a rational
manner, and the other students will probably come around to your
rescue. When that happens, you’ve really succeeded.
Remember that when one student is angry or hostile, you may very well
not be able to reach them no matter what you say or do. (This is
especially true for very emotional issues like religion.) How you
handle the situation and what you say will, however, have an effect on
the other students. Focus on them. Making your point is not what
counts. Answering their questions is. Nothing you want to say is
even close to as important as what they want to know. You are not there
to deal with your issues or diffuse your hot
Use humor to put people at ease, but NEVER to make fun of them or their
opinions. Don’t use sarcasm or turn questions around to put them on the
spot. NEVER make them look bad in front of their peers deliberately.
Treat them as your peers. The quickest way to lose any connection
you have with your audience is to put them in an uncomfortable position
or treat them as inferior beings who need to hear what you
Our goal is to break down stereotypes and barriers to understanding
through education. Any issues you have that get in the way must be put
aside. There are times and places to be militant or angry, but this is
not one of them. Our continued acceptance in the classroom is based on
our ability to meet our audiences where they are and leave them feeling
good about who we are AND who they are.
Think about how you react to hate words. Don’t let the words obscure
the real question. Instead, talk about how you feel about the word
used, suggest an alternative, and then answer the question asked. Often
people don’t know any other words for us.
next subject: Some
Things to Remember
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