As I completed RA training with my RD staff this week, I noticed how many reflections from the entire training sessions, concepts, and events that affect students at my institution are all different in terms of opinions on policies, events, and ways to connect with students. This concept hit me as my RD team and I finished our diversity session on the topic of “privilege” and how it affects people. During the entire session, people were open-minded to reflect and share their opinions in a safe space and have their views heard by others despite how others may agree and disagree with different beliefs. This is a topic that can make people feel differently, as we spoke about the social issues of racism, classism, gender issues, and other social justice actions that have taken place in the country for the past five years. Despite how these issues made members of the team feel, the conversation environment was so positive and open for people to speak their minds and learn from other rather than a negative reaction from one side versus another. After leaving this training session, I wanted to write some of my thoughts and common reactions during disagreements that students, representatives, and peers might have on social topics that affect our field. These are moments that can be hard to express when the environment to debate is not acceptable versus a learning environment.
Express Yourself With “I” Reflections
The power of “I” statements is good for both members of either side of a conversation, debate, disagreement, or any other communication because it allows people to accept their own views without feeling attacked. Using the ownership of your own values and opinions makes the person that might feel differently against a belief understand that this is your own perspective from personal experience rather than a fact or universal acceptance. Anytime student leaders might disagree, this is a tactic that I tell them to use and believe in as a means to help educate others rather than shutting someone out. As rising professionals and members of the Student Affairs field, it’s important to take ownership and understand our feelings as our own to help enlighten people to share and voice their views rather than a one side wins all belief.
Being “Ok” with “Not Being OK”
There will be some issue that will make you feel uncomfortable because your core values, beliefs, or thoughts might seem attacked or changed. During these times, people may feel as if they cannot speak their minds or feel guilty if their identity or belief is attacked. Something that I always tell my students, peers, and colleagues during these moments is to “allow yourself to feel the feelings,” which will happen during disagreements. Conversation about powerful topics such as race, class struggles, and privilege should be a little hard to deal with at first, depending on your views and knowledge of these topics. Despite my own personal views, I remember to listen and understand where someone is coming from and ask them questions depending on their level of comfort within the situation. If you go into these discussions with an open mind and a willingness to express yourself, you will be able share your thoughts and be open to the opinions of others.
Remember, you have something worth saying
My final tip on this topic is embracing what you have to say and how to share your story. I always believe in the value of someone expressing themselves and sharing what they believe in because we all have something unique about our experience. As members of Student Affairs, our goals are common in the well-being of our students, rights for others, and opinions on how to make a difference in society. Despite coming from different backgrounds, areas, and other things that make us unique, remember that we all have something good to share with the world and can help educate ourselves and peers each day.
“Without courage we cannot practice any other virtue with consistency. We can’t be kind, true, merciful, generous, or honest”
> BONUS <
Podcast With Sue Caulfield on “Suedles”, Creativity, & Learning Styles