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