Today, Rhonda and David talk about how to give potentially hurtful feedback when you sense racial bias in a friend or colleague. She describes an incident in her office where the glass coffee table in her waiting room was found smashed and shattered when her office mate “Steve” (not his real name) arrived Monday morning. Although many people, including the cleaning crew, had used the office over the weekend, Steve asked Rhonda to discuss the broken table with someone who uses her office on the weekends, Kenya, about it. Kenya is African American, and a highly esteemed professional and beloved friend and colleague of Rhonda’s. Rhonda thought there was implicit bias being played out in this situation but did not know how to discuss it with Steve.
But how can she convey these feelings to her office mate, who conveyed the impression that a black man must be the one who broke the table?
David suggests one of the advanced communication techniques called “Changing the Focus” discussed and demonstrated in a previous podcast #158. They illustrate how to apply that method to the current situation, and struggle a bit along the way!
David reiterates the story of when he was accused of being racist at a psychotherapy workshop near the Texas / Mexico border, and how his own teachings in that very workshop saved the day for him. He emphasizes that it can be so painful to be accused of racist tendencies, or to discover them in yourself, and that this is another case where the cover-up is far worse than the crime!
David and Rhonda
You can reach Dr. Burns at email@example.com. Dr. Rhonda Barovsky practices in Walnut Creek, California, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. She is a Level 4 Certified TEAM-CBT Therapist and Trainer and specializes in the treatment of trauma, anxiety, depression, and relationship problems.
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I love the podcast & find it very helpful.
Ironically, it could be that the glass table shattered spontaneously – typing “can toughened glass break on its own” into a popular search engine gives pages discussing the physics involved.
Many times we damage relationships with accusations that later prove to be false.
More importantly, it is beautiful to see how sincere, skillful, respectful communication can turn a potential conflict into an opportunity for a closer relationship.
It can be hard to express these skills, especially when we are experiencing strong emotions, but let us all be determined to put in the effort – the rewards will be amazing.
Thanks, Andrew! david
Hello David and Rhonda,
Thanks for your amazing podcasts, I have listened to a lot already.
And thanks Rhonda for bringing this important subject to the table. 🙂 It makes me think of some I have watched on the Red Table Talk with Jada Pinkett about this subject of racism.
Well, I have two questions about what you shared in this podcast:
1) About the “I love you to death” thing. I live in Europ and it is not what we would say to people except perhaps in a romantic passionate relationship :). Personally I wouldn’t want to tell someone, a colleague or somewhat friend that I love them. It seems such a strong word, the word love has another meaning for me, and probably for most people in Europ.
Could I say instead: “I appreciate working with you” or “I appreciate our colleague relationship” ? Would it be enough for stroking ?
2) What if Steve answer that indeed he is racist and can’t stand Afro-American or South American, what would Rhonda answer to that ?! It would become difficult for me to keep a friendship-like relationship with someone who is at the extreme opposite on sensitive subjects.
I am open to any point of view, I don’t need to be disarmed here. 🙂
David, I’m so looking forward to your Feeling Great book !!!
Thanks, forwarding to Rhonda, excellent questions and thanks for kind comment on new book and podcasts! Wording is critically important, as you point out. Five Secrets is like learning to play the piano, and much thoughtfulness plus practice is needed to get good at it. I will let Rhonda answer your second question, but on average, you have a choice whether to use the Five Secrets and encourage the person to vent, and show respect while letting them know your own values are quite different, and that you find their point of view disturbing / upsetting, or perhaps you might decide that you don’t need to have a great relationship with everyone and focus your time an energies on people whose values are closer to your own! david