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 you don't like to look back, but humor me. Years ago, when my husband got fired, do you remember how I struggled with having him home ALL the time, plus all the stress and emotions of the situation? And the fear of the unknown? Well, thanks to the pandemic, I feel like it's happening all over again! However, this time, I'm a single mom and it's not only impacting the girls but also Mom. I know this is an extremely difficult time for all of us, but I feel like no one understands the pressure I'm under. Especially as I'm trying to "hold it all together" for everyone! And before you say anything … I'm not asking for sympathy, because we all know you don't "do" sympathy.


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Actually, I do not think that you want sympathy. I think you want empathy. You want me – and others – to understand how you are feeling. Not to feel sorry for you. And, I venture to guess everyone you are dealing with feels the same way. The pandemic is affecting people in many different ways – health concerns, financial problems, the loss of routine, loneliness, the list goes on-and-on. The fact you are typically warm and fuzzy, means you are probably even more emotional than usual. Which makes it especially challenging – for you, and all of us around you.

THE CONVERSATION STARTERS
  • What's the difference between sympathy and empathy?
  • When your significant other, family member, friend, or co-worker are going through something major, how can you be helpful and work together vs. driving each other crazy?
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?