How to “Hot Button” with Confidence

Welcome Back! While February is recognized as the love month and celebrated for black history, empathy and appreciation for diversity have been placed on the back-burner. It feels as though there’s this obligation to buy candy, hearts, and red tissue paper. Also, I am often under-impressed with our approach to black history month with the same 10 people being highlighted with little to know call to action. This past year has been the year of great tension causing many people to beat around the bush when it comes to tough conversations.

Below are 4 tips for how to have those tough, hot button conversations peacefully and productively.

First, let’s define hot button/ tough conversations.

Hot Button Topics are subjects which elicit strong emotive responses. Hot Button Topics usually present a spectrum of responses which most people choose an extreme to represent. These are the topics that are not brought up at southern dinner tables or do not make for great work related conversations. Examples of current Hot Button Topics would include religion, abortion, income, immigration, police brutality, guns rights, the 45th, race, etc. As mentioned previously, many of these topics are presented in black and white, yet the grey zone is often left out of the conversation. They grey zone can cause tension within these tough conversations. For example, a biracial or mixed person with pale skin not being considered “black enough” for the African American community. Or those who are politically pro-choice and personally pro-life. In conclusion, when faced with Hot Button conversations, just remember that people will have strong stances on them, but everything exists on a continuum. 

1. The Environment Matters

When entering or hosting tough conversations, you must take location and environment into consideration. By this I mean, are you within a large group, a public or private place, at an event, or in a location that would allow for a healthy conversation between the two of you? When hosting tough conversations it helps to not put the other person “on the spot.” My advice would be to have a one on one, if possible, in a space with little to no noise and poses little threat. Your goal here is to make sure that both parties can be heard, are comfortable, and will not get distracted. You want to be considerate of your surroundings and conscious of what is happening within the space and the other person.

2. Check-In with Your Goal

Before entering a highly tense conversation, it helps to be centered and grounded. Most importantly, you want to enter the conversation from a good place with good intentions. You need to assess your mental and emotional state to have that tough conversation. You must be honest with yourself! Are you calm or secure enough to consider a different point of view? Remember that people have firm stances on Hot Button Topics, because they were presented with a strong case or experience earlier in life. Humans are stubborn. Once we believe something is true, it is difficult to accept a new point of view. Your goal should never be to convert the other person (regardless of your stance). Your ultimate goal is to reach understanding on both sides. Hopefully, through a constructive conversation, the other party will take little pieces of what you said and think about it later. However, the process of being presented with new sound information is uncomfortable. It’ll make them squirm and reevaluate their stance. Helping them to understanding you while you active listen to them is success in itself.

3. Create Space for Conversation

Earlier we spoke about the importance of your physical environment and your personal state of mind. Now we want to discuss what a healthy space for conversation looks like. The number one thing here is a Safe Space: that which is non-judgmental, private, respectful of all views, and familiar. You want to build a relationship and trust with the opposite party, because it’s hard to listen to a stranger. You want the questions to be about the topic and viewpoint, rather than personal lives. For example, when speaking about abortion, I stick to policies, access to information, and the fact that it’s a woman’s decision is she wants to grow a whole human. What I won’t do is ask about their personal experience with abortion, family’s history, or say “what if you were…” All of that would immediately put the other person on defense and stop them from listening to you. Again, because you’re goal is mutual understanding, you want both parties open and receptive of the trading of thoughts.

4. Next Step: Action or Disagree

In the spirit of that last statement, the end of the conversation can be a sort of call to action or agreeing to disagree. You want to bring the conversation full circle with a nice close. You want to leave on good terms. You can either end the conversation with your preference or how you interactive with the topic. You can invite them to another conversation or event for them to give their point of view to others. You can ask them to just think about and consider the points you made. When all else fails, just agree to disagree. Remember your goal wasn’t to change someone’s view point, your goal was to have a healthy, productive conversation about something that people don’t want to talk about. It may take many conversations until they see eye to eye with you, so above all else, be patient.

Let people be who they are and appreciate their unique perspective. It isn’t our place to judge them or hate them for having an opinion. It’s our job to educate the masses and do the best we can to respect all views. If you have additional tips, please leave a comment below!

Best,

Cayla Jae

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I’m Looking For Motivation

We finally made it out of January which seemed to last about three years. February comes with is own challenges like having less than 30 days, finding a Valentine, or whipping out black history facts. Today we’re going to talk more about finding motivation.

In an earlier post, I covered getting past procrastination. However, the true goal is getting face to face with motivation and learning whether or not it’s real.

Motivation can be authentic and natural, but this can be inspired by intentional redirection. Some people are naturally driven to complete certain tasks or goals, while others feel forced to complies with those requests. The difference here is whether something has become second nature or habitual for the individual.

So I am of the mindset that motivation is innate: you either have it or you don’t. However, if there’s something you really want, you can do things to create motivation. For example, by nature, I am quite the perfectionist and artistic. Those two qualities can be the best combination for a piece or lead to it’s demise before it even manifests. Due to my perfectionism, I’m often paralyzed to create things because I want them to look a certain way. In art, this is not always the case, but it could be with years of practice. So when it comes to painting, I have to find my own motivation to get the job done.

Earlier, I mentioned that motivation can be created. The most effective way for me has been to make a schedule and stick to it. When you make a schedule, you prioritize certain tasks and actions according to your own value scale. Therefore, if I need motivation to paint, I start with a small commitment to myself of painting for one hour at least 2-3 times a week. As time progresses, painting becomes more important for me and I get into a habit of working a certain amount of hours on it.

This could be done with almost anything. Need motivation to finish an essay? As soon as you get the assignment and answer all your questions about the prompt, open up that calendar. See how many days you have until it’s due. Then do yourself a favor and change the due date to a day earlier. Look at the number of stages or pages required for this essay and build a schedule backwards. So if I have a 10 page essay on why left feet are associated with bad dancing:

  1. Identify the due date and made your personal due date.
  2. I have 2 weeks to write 10 pages. This means I have to write 5 pages a week or be more specific. Ex. I will write this many words a day. I will write 2 pages on Tuesday and Thursday, then 1 page on Sunday.
  3. Determine what stage you have to be in the process. Ask yourself, “How much do you know about this topic? What do I need to research? How many sources do I need?”
  4. Then you can pick a date to either just conduct research and gather sources. Or set a date for your research to be completed, so you can just write and edit.
  5. Be sure to edit on your due date and submit as earlier as possible so it’s off of your mind.

So again your motivation can be created from having easy tasks on a variety of days. Eventually you’ll get into a habit of scheduling out enough time to complete those assignments. That’s how I find motivation: doing small this here and there with an end goal in mind.

What you really want is…

Welcome to Black History and Commercial Love Month! It’s short and sweet and to the point, just as I wish your next steps will be. At the beginning of this month, I am reflecting on the past six months of my Gap Year Journey. Below, you’ll find ways to identity: What you do not want, What you think you want, and What you really want.

For many of us, the goal was to make it through high school. After graduating, some serve, work, or apply for college. Once you’re in undergraduate studies, the outcomes are unlimited. For those of us who finally make it to the stage, we have a few options: careers or jobs, scholarship opportunities, or more school.

I’ve spoken about my reasons for coming to this decision to take a Gap Year in an earlier post. However, I never wrote about what kept me here. Months before graduation, I had too many ideas about my next possible steps. After the election of the 45th, I felt that none of those options actually made a difference. I came home with the idea of taking a month or two off to relax and celebrate all of my hard work. What I was not expecting was how BORING it was!

I decided narrow down my options and make some spending money. Networking with family friends led to an internship which led to a service position through AmeriCorps. Both of these opportunities were great in that they should me what I do not want, what I ideally want, and what I am a good match for. After going through this experience, I realize that I could have made smarter choices, yet I wouldn’t trade them for anything else. Below you’ll find 3 thought clouds:

  1. What you do not want.

I fearlessly allowed myself to explore positions that I was curious about. I am interested in combining my creative spirit with my organizational skills. This led to me joining projects within the city to help plan, coordinate, and facilitate a variety of events. I also wandered into a full time teaching position which is technically called workshop facilitation. I also led community center arts and craft lessons while completing 3 commissions.

I learned that I do not belong in the event planning realm and that I am not cut out to be a teacher of young people. Although I am excellent in all of these roles, they do not align with my gut. When you are in the place where you are meant to be and doing the line of work meant for you, you have this feeling. It’s like an epiphany or breathe of fresh air or just a smile. You have a feeling that leads to you splayed out on your bed at night saying, “I could do just this for the rest of my life.” Though I’m being a little dramatic, it is true that I have not had that feeling in those roles. I feel that I embodied my roles well and I enjoyed some moments with co-workers. This was still helpful in that I can redirect myself.

This is not to say that I will never teach or plan an event again. I have the skills and interests in both, so if an opportunity arose I would probably accept (depending on my situation at the time). This is when you review your priorities. Can you stand it enough to help pay some bills?

2. What you think you want.

I am an artist. I paint, dance, write, and decorate. I create in any position I can, as long as there’s an itch (sometimes artists get this inspiration or motivation to just create). I hadn’t painted or drawn in so long that I assumed that my discontentment was a result of that. I hadn’t made time to exercise or create. So I started setting meeting with successful people in my field around the city for advice on how to make art for a living.

These wonderful people gave me the best advice and encourage me still today to create a show. However, my issue is that I do not just want to make things for monetary compensation. This is the reason commissions are challenging for me, because I’m making something that I hope someone else will value, rather than what I am proud of. When I envision the person that I could be in the future, it isn’t an artist. The artist who owns a studio, is quite famous, and works out in her free time, isn’t me anymore. Although I have the skills and knowledge to be a great entrepreneur, it doesn’t align with my gut.

Eventually you have to be honest with yourself and keep your fantasies in check. It is challenging sometimes to tune out the voices surrounding you and tune into the voice inside of you. I am often praised on my art and I am proud of it. Although I enjoy it and think it might be “cool” to be a full time artist, it isn’t me. I do not schedule the time to create and I do not have the motivation to push myself there. So allow yourself to be honest and not please others (nor society).

3. What you really want.

What you really want is the happy median which doesn’t always exist. However, our goal here is to compromise. Take your list of what you do not want and ask the question why. Afterwards take your list of what you think you want and ask the question why. Somewhere in there you will find an answer of what you’re good at and kinda like.

(1) I do not like when people panic during events nor do I enjoy the long hours. However, I love the idea of turning nothing into something that hundreds of people will remember for years to come. I do not see myself as a primary nor secondary teacher, because they are under paid and over worked. Additionally, working with students everyday increases my chance for sickness, forces me to repeat myself often, and burn myself out. Most importantly, they must follow rules from the godmother of education and I feel as though education has become less centered around the child.

(2) I love the idea of being an artist, because I can be my own boss and set my own hours. I can also dictate which projects to accept or deny. I can travel all over and experience life outside of my world. I would be allowed to express myself and be valued for that. I also think that I would make people proud. I also like the idea of working out on a regular basis, because of all the benefits. I see an exercising artist as a happy and healthy being.

I am artistic, organized, detail-oriented, empathetic with children’s development, and a seer of the big picture. I like opportunities to lead with little supervision, creatively solve problems, making those I admire proud, and commit to self-care. Therefore, what I want is somewhere within those last two sentences. I want to lead, build community, and allow the marginalized to be listened to. I want to influence and take over the educational system here to create efficient solutions to some significant problems. I want financial stability that would allow my to travel often and keep the lights on.

So that is my simplified method to discovering what you really want. Take the skills you learned, the highlights from your experiences, and pieces of your fantasy of a life and find your happy median. Feel free to add to the conversation below!

Best,

Cayla Jae