Design by Sawyer Pennington

People have told us they're using our sisterly banter to start conversations with others (family, friends, and even in classrooms), so Black created "Conversation Starters". Stay tuned as we'll be introducing new topics on a regular basis!


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I know that we're living in stressful times, so I've been trying not to get worked up over things, especially as I know that it doesn't take much to "set me off" these days. We both know I'm a warm and fuzzy person, who prefers to avoid conflict, but it's becoming a struggle for me to be patient with people. I know I'm a "better" person when I can remain calm, but knowing that doesn't make it any easier to actually do. Plus, if I can't stay calm, cool, and collected with myself, there's no hope of treating others that way. As much as I want to.


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Recognizing the situation is a major first step. Sometimes, you have to find a way to step back so you can reset. If that does not work, then just pretend to be calm. Think of it as style over substance. When I was in the corporate world, there were always people who tended to over-react. They thought of themselves as inspiring and passionate when, in reality, they were exhausting. Plus, they often came across as being overly emotional, and even having knee-jerk reactions, versus being professional and knowledgeable.

THE CONVERSATION STARTERS

  • How would you react to someone who's calm and displaying decorum? How would you react to someone that's "screaming in your face" or agitated?
  • Our mother used to say, "You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar." What do you think she meant by that? Do you agree or disagree? Why?
  • If you were being interviewed for a job, how would you answer the question, "How well do you work under pressure?" Why do you think they'd ask that question? How might it apply to your personal life?
Design by Sawyer Pennington

People have told us they're using our sisterly banter to start conversations with others (family, friends, and even in classrooms), so Black created "Conversation Starters". Stay tuned as we'll be introducing new topics on a regular basis!


Red's Head assets.rebelmouse.io


There's so much discussion right now about trying to change people's minds about getting vaccinated, but I'm not sure how you change people's minds about anything. Growing up, and actually up until my crisis when you forced me to do otherwise, my preference and tendency have always been to avoid conflict. And most of the time, I can still do that.

But I'm curious, since you're the debate queen, how do you change people's minds? I suppose you're going to tell me it takes having all your facts and figures ready, that no one wants to hear all the warm and fuzzy "logic". And, as the saying goes from the 1950s TV show Dragnet, "Just the facts, ma'am."


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Ironically, the key to changing someone's mind may be closer to your natural tendencies than you realize. First, I think we can agree that telling someone how wrong they currently are (or right you are) does not work, unless you want a debate – not a productive conversation.

But contrary to what you think I am going to suggest, I know that facts and figures can be intimidating and boring for most people. (I know it makes your eyes glaze over.) They are important, but not as important as meeting people where they are. Find something on which you agree versus being on opposing sides, and go from there. Try to understand WHY they see things differently from you and explain your position and why – but not by reciting facts. It may be how the issue is framed, or maybe not everything relevant was taken into consideration. Not surprisingly, this approach uses the same tactics that many successful salespeople use. Combine that with the fact (pun intended) that we are a story-telling society, and it becomes obvious that to changes someone's mind, you also have to touch them on an emotional level.

THE CONVERSATION STARTERS

  • Have you ever tried to change someone's mind? How did you approach it? Did it work?
  • Has anyone ever tried to make you change your mind? How did they approach it? Did it work? Why or why not?
  • What do you think of Black's approach to first find common ground? Is there's always common ground? If not, what can you do?
  • When trying to change someone's mind, do you think about WHY they believe what they do? Do you ask them to explain their position? Or, do you start out stating your position in an attempt to change their mind?


Design by Sawyer Pennington

People have told us they're using our sisterly banter to start conversations with others (family, friends, and even in classrooms), so Black created "Conversation Starters". Stay tuned as we'll be introducing new topics on a regular basis!


Red's Head assets.rebelmouse.io


I don't understand why there's this backlash against science and scientists. I never thought science was something that you believed in or didn't believe in. It was just, well, science. (And for the record, although I was a straight-A student, I found all my science classes difficult, and it seemed only the truly "nerdy" students really "got it".) But now it seems that so many people are questioning not only the "truth" of science but the scientists themselves.

It's one thing to talk about so-called "mad scientists" – either the ones who were genuinely brilliant or the weird ones in books and movies (my favorite being Gene Wilder in Young Frankenstein) – but to question the ethics and motives of scientists who are proven experts in their field makes no sense. And going through thousands of personal emails looking for evidence of wrong-doing when they're trying their best to not only find the truth but explain the situation, even admitting when they don't know the answer, is unbelievable.


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And dangerous. And, lately, has become extremely political. Dan Rather recently did a great piecing "defending science" but the fact that it was even necessary is alarming. There is no denying that science has always been important, whether in everyday applications or eradicating diseases.

But, the bottom line is science is a process. And I trust the process. It includes not only a scientific method but, more importantly, scientific consensus. It is never just a single scientist's conclusion. The associated hypotheses and evidence are vetted by other scientists that are experts in that field, and if the findings are substantiated, are then published. But it does not end there. More experts continue to review the results, ask questions, and challenge the conclusions. (Think of it as a jury of geeks.) It is not a quick process – it is an evolution – which means things may change. But, this very process of inquiry is what makes science, science.

THE CONVERSATION STARTERS

  • What does the word "science" mean to you? How has science impacted your life?
  • Can you trust something you might not understand?
  • How do you reconcile science with religious beliefs? With political beliefs?
  • Why do you think some people trust vaccines and others don't?
Design by Sawyer Pennington

People have told us they're using our sisterly banter to start conversations with others (family, friends, and even in classrooms), so Black created "Conversation Starters". Stay tuned as we'll be introducing new topics on a regular basis!


Red's Head assets.rebelmouse.io


I always thought that literacy was simply the ability to read and write, and didn't think much about it. Until Natasha was in elementary school and was struggling, and then I found out the hard way how critical those skills are, not only for being successful in school but in life. Interestingly, I learned that there are just over 200 words that are critical to being able to read (the Dolch list). Fast forward years later, when we found ourselves "teaching" financial literacy at KIPP, and although the word "literacy" was being used to describe understanding money and personal finance, I still didn't think much about it. But recently, I was shocked to learn that millions of people in this country can't read. And now, I'm hearing about "functional literacy" and things like digital literacy and even health literacy. It's all very confusing. Or, is "literacy" just the new "buzzword"?


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As a literacy expert recently told us, "Literacy … there's more to it." Functional Literacy takes the basic concept of being able to read and write, and expands it to having the skills necessary to manage daily living and employment tasks, and topics such as financial literacy, digital literacy, and health literacy.

I recently read a comprehensive, and inspiring, action plan, the Houston's Adult Literacy Blueprint, that was developed by the Mayor's Office for Adult Literacy (the only office of its kind in the nation) in partnership with the Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation to break the cycle of poverty by improving the literacy skills of adults. The detailed plan is based on significant research and input from key stakeholders, and there is also an executive summary. However, I know I am the data geek, not you, but think that you will appreciate this quote from the study, "When parents teach children how to read, ask questions, solve problems, and ultimately navigate the world, they are developing the building blocks for academic and life success."

THE CONVERSATION STARTERS

  • How would you describe functional literacy? What skills do you think are necessary to manage daily life? To be successful in the workplace?
  • Have you or your family been personally affected by literacy issues or challenges? If so, how have they impacted your life?
  • Obviously, becoming functionally literate has a profound effect on the individual. What are potential ripple effects?
  • What can you and/or your company do to help reduce adult illiteracy?