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The Lifestyle guide to uncomfortable conversations

CW: suicide, racism

When was the last time you saw the effects of white privilege first-hand? Or noticed you were being treated in a certain way due to your gender? Acknowledging issues of inequality can be uncomfortable and is often left unaddressed due to stigma. This mentality has been commonplace in past years, but 2020 saw an avalanche of protests and petitions that forced people to confront issues of gender, race and sexuality. Movements such as Black Lives Matter, increasing climate change awareness, destigmatising mental illness and transgender rights have highlighted the need for a more equal and open-minded society.

Suicide rates have climbed steadily since 2018, whist the global pandemic has caused a surge in mental health problems throughout society. I know from personal experience how difficult it can be to ask for help as I suffered from anorexia as a teenager, a topic that felt taboo amongst my friends and family. Megan Markle’s admittance to suicidal thoughts in her now-infamous interview with Oprah is one example of work towards destigmatizing the subject for many. However, it is imperative that we continue to address mental health in order to normalise seeking support. It is only through engaging in uncomfortable conversations that we will break down the social stigmas that have closed off society and isolated sufferers.

This utopian ideal is possible, but it requires individuals to engage in uncomfortable conversations to highlight instances of inequality and boycott outdated and damaging ideas.

When people try to educate themselves or others on such issues they can often be ridiculed and called ‘over sensitive’ for presenting themselves as morally superior to their peers. This stigma has become a dangerous aspect of our society, as it can dissuade people from sharing information. When approaching uncomfortable or controversial topics it is very important to not appear condescending and engage in respectful and open conversation.

We can all benefit from sharing and listening to ideas and information. Following months of lockdown and isolation, the way in which we communicate has fundamentally changed. This, however, need not impede our ability to speak out on topics of importance; we need to adapt ourselves to ensure we remain informed.

There are several ways we can prepare ourselves to approach difficult conversations. It is important to be respectful and tolerant when conversing with others whose views differ from your own. Furthermore, procrastinating a difficult conversation can often increase tension or anxiety relating to the topic. Addressing a topic in a calm way can avoid rash comments and unnecessary conflict.

Finally, entering a conversation having educated yourself through research can help you feel more confident, especially if you have a plan of the issues you want to discuss, and questions you want to pose. Whilst we can prepare for conversations and strongly advocate a point of view, our right to freedom of thought and expression allows for different views, one of the things that makes us unique individuals. It is up to us to exercise our right to freedom of speech with the view of creating a better, more inclusive society for future generations.

image: Cdd20 via Pixabay