When you hear the word power you may think of the system of supremacy, the wealthy 1% using their riches to get what they want, or maybe the influence celebrities have on their fans. These are all examples of power, but whether we acknowledge it or not a lot of our day-to-day interactions with each other involves power plays.
Communication itself is a powerful tool. Being able to communicate properly can literally change the quality of your life and the lives of those around you. People who have great communication skills utilize language and emotional intelligence to give and receive information from any and everyone. Often a lack of communication skills directly links to anger and emotional issues because, let’s be honest, not being able to comprehend or relay information is frustrating.
When we do communicate we often seek social status/power through conversation. Even among friends/family, which whom we feel the most comfortable with, we position ourselves and others. This is both progressive and problematic. In certain social situations, positioning yourself via conversation will grant you opportunities to advance yourself and others. I have known people to gain employment, financial funding, and even romantic interest just from being able to position themselves via conversation. The downside to gaining power this way is that a lot of people don’t know how to exalt themselves without stepping on others. For instance, women are used as tools to gain status among men. The attractiveness and/or quantity of the women a man dates and attracts can give him status/power. This can lead to very sexist conversations that may give a man clout, but spread ideas that are harmful to women. This is just one example of how trying to gain even the smallest bit of social status can and has aided in harming groups INSIDE our community. The power or progress of the collective must be more important than the egos of individuals. We must have everyday conversations with awareness and purpose. At the barbershop, salon, social media, your homies front yard, everywhere you embrace and interact with each other do it with love. Here are 5 ways to have healthier conversations:
1. Listening with the purpose of understanding..
Everyone thinks they listen simply because they can hear, but listening requires emotional intelligence. So many things hinder us from using emotional intelligence like ego and blocking the message because we don’t like the vessel. You must first want to find solutions &/or be educated/made aware of others issues and concerns even if you aren’t directly impacted by them. You have to be aware of social cues and body language to know whether people are comfortable or even receptive to certain conversations. Be aware of the social cues and energy that you give off to avoid miscommunications. Last, but not least, be attentive and respectful. It goes a long way.
2. Control your emotions…
We are an emotional people. This is a gift and a curse. We are passionate which is wonderful and has contributed to our perseverance, but it can also cause us to harm ourselves. When you let emotions control your responses or actions, rational thinking and/or calculated planning rarely come into play. When we take objective conversations personally not only do we limit our understanding, but we make ourselves easily controllable by becoming angry, upset, and reactive. In some cases we endanger ourselves and others just because we didn’t think before we responded.
3. Be direct and clear…
Most of us can speak, but that doesn’t mean you know how to communicate. Not knowing how to say what you mean in a way that others can understand and receive is just like speaking to them in a foreign language. When discussing issues amongst your people middle ground needs to be found not only with the issue at hand, but how you convey your points and message. This is not a time to power trip and exalt yourself with advanced vocabulary or knowledge you have acquired, but to lift your people to where we all should be. Speak confidently about what you know and believe, but don’t be condescending to those who do not. Be inviting and willing to clarify or explain your message. We must have patience with each other.
4. Don’t be afraid to question/speak out against ideas and concepts…
Sometimes the worse thing we can do to others and ourselves is to simply do nothing. People get intimidated by others confidence or just scared of what others may think and let harmful things occur. When you hear ideas you aren’t sure about question them. Never be afraid to challenge concepts or get more information. When you know that what is being discussed is hazardous to yourself and/or others SPEAK UP. Don’t be afraid to correct or challenge ideas and doctrines. This is how we change things and progress.
We as Black folk in America can relate to the issues of living in this system of supremacy. Yes other minorities have similar struggles, but there are things we share as “skinfolk” that no other race/nation can relate to. With that being said we tend to show little empathy to those groups within our communities who have issues that aren’t just race based or things that we think don’t impact us. Some go as far as to try to silence those groups not realizing that it hurts the collective which includes ALL of us. When a Black man is shot down by the police we should all be able to FEEL for the family, when a Black single mom is trying her best to take care of her kids we should be able to UNDERSTAND her struggles, when a Black Trans-woman is killed we should FEEL for her loved ones and want justice for her and her family Etc. ALL black people matter PERIOD.
We are already governed by a system built to hurt us as a group. From economics to the judicial system we are subjected to power plays from those in power. What we don’t need are conversations that promote more harm INSIDE our communities. Our ancestors native languages we’re stripped from them and we were forbidden to learn to read because information and the sharing of thoughts and ideas is powerful. But communication, like any power, is a neutral thing. It can be good or bad depending on how it is used. Let’s use our power wisely.
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