Whenever I read an article or see a headline that says, “The surprising racist history of…” I think, wait, this shouldn’t be surprising because the United States and much of the colonial and Western worlds were built on the backbone of slavery, oppression, and racism. There is racism in everything. Including ourselves. This should not be a surprise. There is racism everywhere, in everything.
The default American question “What do you do?” doesn’t suffice. Here are six of my favorite questions to ask people instead, and why they work. Asking people better questions is a great way into a more interesting conversation.
“I’ll start a podcast and interview people I know,” someone says. Twenty episodes in, and they realize that they’ve accidentally interviewed people that look identical—all one gender, all one race. Did they do it on purpose? Of course not. Most people don’t mean to. We don’t set out to say “Hey look, I think I’ll create the most biased podcast out there and only interview people that look like me.” But when we don’t pay attention, this happens over and over again. Here’s why it happens, why it’s important to notice it, and when to intervene to change it.
It’s fun to brainstorm, to be clever, to solve things. But sometimes other people don’t need us to solve their problem, offer advice, or jump in with the perfect story. Sometimes they just need us to listen. Listening isn’t being quiet: it’s an active process. And it takes work to listen well. Here are a few strategies for being better at giving advice (without giving advice).
More than any course, metric, skill, or tactic, the people you surround yourself will make the biggest difference in your life and career. Conferences can be transformative experiences. When you bring people together in one place, for one weekend, to celebrate, to learn, and to connect, you leave changed.