The Reflection - Connection Method

The Reflection – Connection Method is based on a sequence of phases that usually happen in sequence but may not always flow that way. Phase 0 is preparation, the next phases are aspects of the engagement with the skeptic.


The Connector Method at a glance

  • Phase 0: Do your preparation to be in a listening mode
  • Phase 1: Reflect on your own experiences that illustrate your own journey as an ally
  • Phase 2: Probe the skeptic about their beliefs – and the experiences that drive those beliefs
  • Phase 3: Offer your own experiences that are likely to have some resonance with them
  • Phase 4: Raise questions that open possibilities for a broader view
  • Phase 5: Offer your experiences that suggest a broader view of race than they have now
  • Phase 6: Highlight data, facts, or illustrations that support a broader view
  • Phase 7: Encourage the skeptic to consider a broader view and more conversation

Here is a more complete explanation of the Reflection-Connection Method

Phase 0: Prepare yourself to respond to racism from place that is principled, centered, and strategic.

  • Know the racism-denying statements that trigger negative emotions within you, and that often undermine your listening
  • Remember that lectures that are good for other allies sometimes shut skeptics down.
  • Reflect on the personal stories that bear upon the issue. Practice telling your stories at different durations (45 seconds or 3 minutes) to a friend or to the mirror.
  • Think about what facts, studies, or explanatory concepts you might want to bring up later in the conversation.
  • Have a general strategy for the conversation(s) that takes into account the setting, mood, and other factors.
  • Do some reflection on your own beliefs.
  • Remember that this productively engaging the issue take more than one conversation.
  • Breathe and try to relax. You got this.

Phase 1. Probe the skeptic for their beliefs

  • Within key topics, ask questions to learn the contours of the subject’s skepticism about racism.
  • Look for places of maximum alignment with the skeptic as opportunities to start the dialogue.
  • Manage your non-verbal communication so you don’t convey judgment. Let go of the desire to admonish them about their views about race, or about their viewpoint generally.

Phase 2: Move the conversation from beliefs to experiences that have created and validated beliefs.

  • Ask them to share an experience that explains why they see things like they do.
  • Share a story that tends to validate as much of the skeptic’s perspective as you authentically can.
  • If you have external data or facts that validate the part of the issue you agree on, share this information. 
  • Let the connection between you linger in the air between you. This is the building block of your effort to move them forward.
  • Make sure they know you don’t think the skeptic is inherently and irretrievably wrong.
  • If you have ever thought like they did, you can describe how your own view was once like theirs. Don’t focus on how you have grown – that will come later.
  • Remember, you are not saying everything they believe is right because you agree with one thing.

Phase 3: Raise questions for joint exploration

  • Raise questions that encourage the skeptic to imagine that there might be another truth that exists along side the point of agreement above.
  • Invite the skeptic to collaborate with you to look for this larger truth
  • Raise open ended questions like: Is it possible that (the agreement) is true, and some other things are also true?

Phase 4: Convey experiences that invite a broader perspective

  • Share one or more direct or second-hand experiences that suggest the larger truth they tend to deny.
  • Ask questions to see if they have had experiences that also suggest a larger truth that exists alongside the point of agreement discussed earlier.

Phase 5: If necessary, deploy some facts can further undermine the myth

  • After mining the potential of stories about experiences, move to other kinds of data.
  • Polling data often can make compelling points to skeptics who are open to science.
  • Large-scale social science experiments (e.g. sending out hundreds of resumes to employers and testing whether “ethnic sounding” names get a difference response from “white sounding” names) can make powerful points

Phase 6: Enlist the skeptic in the search for unifying concepts and offer suggestions

  • Find out how the skeptic fits together his/her original truth and the experiences and facts you have been discussing.
  • At the right time, offer how you see it; perhaps include non-hot button connecting concepts (e.g. white privilege, unconscious bias) that link the original truth and the facts you have been discussing.
  • If you are of a different political ideology, don’t try to change their entire worldview.  You are doing retail work – not wholesale!
  • Think of different possible focus areas of the next good opportunity to continue talking