A Solution for These Times: Stop Avoiding the Hard Conversations

Whether you are in the United States or abroad, you’ve likely felt the giant sweep of relief and celebration in the wake of President-elect Joe Biden’s recent victory—not to mention, the historic election of our first female vice president, Kamala Harris! We are beginning to envision the monumental work ahead of us with a little more hope: the work of rebuilding a sorely divided nation and of addressing the urgent matters of our global community…from getting through COVID-19, to meeting the hazards of climate change, to ensuring justice for all people.

Bottom line: Our work isn’t done. In some ways, it’s barely started. The “healing process” that we are up against is going to take a lot of time, care, and hard conversations. If you’re ready to step up and be the change you wish to see in the world, keep reading for some important tips.


I’m sure you’ve already noticed—we’re in some turbulent times. 

Many of us may feel tempted to curl up into a ball and pull the covers over our heads and wish that everything could just go back to normal.

Well sister, “normal” is no longer an option. We can’t afford to bury our heads in the sand and avoid the giant shit storm that’s been brewing in our nation and world for way longer than the last few weeks. 

We must no longer be content to keep things “light” and “polite.” We are facing so many massive wounds right now, and ignoring them isn’t going to stop the pain. 

There’s only one solution I can think of: All of us, especially women, need to have the hard conversations. 

We need to step up and speak from our hearts—about racism, about systemic injustice, about the topics that threaten to keep us divided by virtue of our silence—and be the kind of change we want to see in the world. 

Now more than ever, it’s important to bravely enter discussions that invite greater understanding and awareness, especially around issues of injustice and social transformation. 

In the words of the black poet and scholar Audrey Lorde, “Your silence will not protect you. But for every real word spoken, for every attempt I had ever made to speak those truths for which I am still seeking, I had made contact with other women while we examined the words to fit a world in which we all believed, bridging our differences.”

We’re living in defining times that are bringing up both our fear and our goodness. Let this be an opportunity to bravely speak our truth and learn how to navigate the challenging moments with grace and ease. 

Below I’m including some of the most-asked questions about how to have the hard conversations that have emerged in the Wf1 community in the past couple months—and our responses to them.

I’m a person of color (or white person) who has never talked to my close POC (or white) friend about racism. I want to be able to talk about it but am scared of what it might bring up. Help!

This is a great question, and there are multiple ways to approach this. First of all, if you are seeking to learn more about racism, educating yourself is always the first step. You might want to talk to other people of color (if you’re a POC) or white people (if you’re white) to share ideas. You can also look up the vast repository of resources on racism and anti-racism education. It’s okay to admit that you feel a little scared when you approach the topic, but that you’d like to open up dialogue from a place of care and curiosity. It’s important to understand that racism is a powerful and often-painful topic, especially for people of color, so approach it with sensitivity. Don’t make assumptions about your friend’s experiences. Speak from the “I” point of view, and allow your intentions to lead. Rather than going into a conversation with the desire to convince your friend of your point of view, go in with the desire to listen, learn, share from your heart, and respectfully take in what your friend has to say. You may be surprised to know that your experiences may substantially differ from your friend’s, so approaching the topic with gentleness, love, and the desire to understand each other better is key.

No matter how much my family member and I have talked about this one issue we have totally opposing viewpoints about, we can’t seem to come to a resolution. It’s beginning to put a strain on our relationship. How do we move forward?

Unfortunately, we all come into situations where we cannot reach a resolution other than “agreeing to disagree,” which may often feel forced and unsatisfying. Sometimes, however, it can be enough to acknowledge the elephant in the room. Rather than beating a dead horse by continuing to stew in your differences, have a candid conversation with your family member. You may wish to say something like, “I am realizing our differences in opinion are taking a toll on our relationship, which I don’t want to happen. How are you feeling? Can we come up with some ideas about how to stay connected, even though we may not see eye-to-eye?” 

Simply letting them know that your relationship is important and that you want to focus on ways to build connection rather than opposition is likely to create an opening, as well as opportunities for vulnerability and love to shine through. Allow yourself to remember what you appreciate about your family member, and attempt to voice that gratitude to them. While you may never come to a resolution, the reality is that whatever we choose to focus on can inform our relationships. If your focus is gratitude, love, and appreciation, you are likely to see a tangible shift. On the other hand, depending on the issues you’re facing, you have to determine for yourself whether the differences are big enough to inhibit connection or pave a way forward, or if they will force you to hold back your truth. In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Listen to your heart. 

I am having difficulty expressing my political views to my close friends because I’m afraid of being shamed. What do I do?

If these people are truly your friends, they will hear what you have to say without responding to you in a negative, judgmental, or shaming way. Be brave and share from your heart, using the tools in the toolkit…and hopefully, your friends will listen to you with open ears. If they disagree, this can still invite an opportunity for constructive conversation about why your views may be different from one another’s. Remember, it’s not simply our commonalities that have the power to create deeper bonds and stronger intimacy; it’s respectful awareness of our differences, and how to navigate them that also matters.

If the fear of being shamed or rejected persists and keeps you from speaking up, it might be a good idea to do some gentle self-inquiry. Go back to the first part of the toolkit and get clear about your desires and intentions. Are you projecting your fear onto your friends, or is it the result of earlier experiences of being shamed and ostracized by others? Are you someone who has difficulty speaking up in general, or is this an issue that is specific to your political views? Do some journaling and self-reflection before rushing into a conversation. It could very well be that the first hard conversation you need to have is with yourself, not your friends.

I want you to feel bold, brave, and supported as you express your truth in powerful ways. That’s why I’m extending Wf1’s 20% off special on our popular Hard Conversations Toolkit through the end of July. 

Although I’d originally planned to offer this discount only for the month of June, it’s super clear to me from the emails I’ve received and the hard conversations I’ve been having myself that the tools in this toolkit were made for this time. Every single one of us needs powerful resources for navigating conflict and owning our truth rather than running away from it. 

The Hard Conversations Toolkit was designed to help you step into those tricky “can we talk?” moments with greater ease and confidence—and it also includes several extra tips/FAQs that my team and I came up with, based on our community’s questions, to help you navigate the unique challenges of this time.

Don’t wait—get your Hard Conversations Toolkit now.
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About the Author | Kelly McNelis

Kelly McNelis is the founder of global community, Women for One, a speaker, coach, facilitator, and bestselling author of Your Messy Brilliance: 7 Tools for the Perfectly Imperfect Woman. With more than 25 years of experience as a nonprofit and small-business consultant, Kelly empowers generations of women around the world to build the relationships, community, and confidence they need to achieve their wildest dreams. She finds daily inspiration in spending time with her husband and children in her home outside of Seattle.

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