Over the summer, I attended the American Psychological Association Annual Convention. There, I listened with enthusiasm to a talk by Dr. David Rivera entitled Perspectives and Strategies for Addressing Resistance in Multicultural Psychology Courses. During this talk, Dr. Rivera made the point that perhaps in approaching interactions around multiculturalism, our field should replace the commonly used expression, “Difficult Dialogues” with the also popular term, “Courageous Conversations.” This got me thinking about how our language impacts our worldview, our thoughts, our behaviors, and even our interpersonal interactions. Once Dr. Rivera made that point, I was reminded of learning about the concept of linguistic relativity, which states that the structure of language affects its speakers’ cognitions. With this concept in mind, I began to wonder… if we frame a conversation as “difficult,” does it feel unappealing to join? Could the term “difficult” influence people to want to avoid these conversations of such great import?
These dialogues are, and should continue to be, difficult. They will elicit painful emotions that are necessary during the process of self-reflection, growth, and hopefully, change. I believe that the most impactful growth moments I’ve had throughout my career, and frankly, my life, were interactions and conversations that pushed me far outside of my comfort zone. I recall these conversations as being difficult and as certainly requiring courage. I also credit these tough dialogues with being the cause of more growth than any “easy” conversation would be capable of eliciting. Of course it is difficult to acknowledge and honestly examine implicit or explicit biases, to make mistakes, to realize that you have hurt others, and it takes courage to own up to and to treat these experiences as learning moments.
We are at a point in history where these dialogues are crucial. They are difficult and it takes bravery and courage to initiate and to engage in these conversations. It is my hope that with a reframed focus on courageousness, more people will be willing to take the opportunities to self reflect, to talk about difficult topics, to make mistakes, to grow, and to be courageous.
Cara Jacobson, Psy.D.
Psychotherapy Bulletin Associate Editor
phone: (443) 520-2036
Cite This Article
Jacobson, C. (2017). From difficult dialogues to courageous conversations? Psychotherapy Bulletin, 52(4).