Posts Tagged ‘respectful dialogue’

two people side by side reading books

This year, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to join over 100 of my colleagues in reading and discussing the book Why are all the Black kids sitting together in the cafeteria? by Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum. Together, we chose to focus on racial literacy through a yearlong book club and respectful dialogue series.

According to the Ohio State University Office of Diversity and Inclusion, respectful dialogue is “engagement in honest, thoughtful and reflexive conversation with the goal of understanding one another.” When engaging in respectful dialogue, you do not have to agree with or adopt the perspectives of all others. Instead, you listen to other perspectives with curiosity and the goal of learning.

When engaging in a respectful dialogue, it is helpful for all participants to establish and agree to common expectations for the conversation. Some of the expectations our book club group adopted include:

  • Speak from your own experience only. No one is a spokesperson for an entire group.
  • Assume positive intention, but own your impact.
  • If you are upset or offended, say so, and say why.
  • No shame or blame – be gracious and remember we are all learning.
  • Listen to understand, not to respond.
  • Challenge by choice. No one should ever feel pressured to interact or engage.
  • Try leaning into the discomfort that these conversations can sometimes evoke.
  • Be empathetic and compassionate – toward others AND yourself.
  • Be respectful, even if you disagree with something.
  • Remember it’s okay to disagree, but don’t make it personal. Stick to the issue. No name-calling or put-downs.

If you’re interested in participating in a respectful dialogue on a tough topic but don’t know where to start, reach out to your local library to see if they have any upcoming events you could join. For example, the Columbus Metropolitan Library joined eight other libraries in central Ohio for an 11-week One Book, One Community event in November 2020 – January 2021. In 2021, they hosted monthly virtual panel discussions on race and social justice, each one centering on a different book, movie, article, or music selection. Many of these selections and other titles that your local library may be able to recommend come with discussion guides you can use to host a respectful dialogue of your own with friends, family members, or co-workers.

On the topic of racial literacy, the American Library Association has a list of recommended anti-racism titles for all ages, and both Nationwide Children’s Hospital and Common Sense Media offer advice for parents on talking about racism with children. As the parent to a toddler, one thing I learned from my experience reading this particular book and participating in this book club is the importance of starting conversations about tough topics early in life.

Written by: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension Franklin County.

Reviewed by: Laura Stanton, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Warren County.


American Library Association (2020). Reading for change: Booklist recommended antiracism titles for all ages. https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/blogs/the-scoop/reading-change-booklist-recommends-antiracism-titles-ages

Common Sense Media (2020). How to talk with kids about racism and racial violence. https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/how-to-talk-with-kids-about-racism-and-racial-violence

Nationwide Children’s (2020). How to talk to your kids about racism. https://www.nationwidechildrens.org/family-resources-education/700childrens/2020/06/how-to-talk-to-your-kids-about-racism

The Ohio State University Office of Diversity and Inclusion. (n.d.) Respectful Dialogue Toolkit. https://odi.osu.edu/respectful-dialogue-toolkit

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