How to Respectfully Discuss Contentious Issues at Work - Deepstash
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Feeling unsafe to speak out

Feeling unsafe to speak out

Research shows that people are more cautious to speak up at work than they were a few years ago.

In a survey, nine out of ten respondents felt emotionally or physically unsafe to speak out. Topics people dreaded addressing were political or social issues (74%), and pandemic issues (70%).


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We dread speaking up because of the stories we tell ourselves

When we address issues that are emotionally and politically risky, we tend to see the other person more negatively. We tell ourselves stories that show us as virtuous victims and the other party as the villain. We then form emotions of disgust and fear that give rise to conflict and lead to a downward spiral that reinforces our story.

A study found that subjects who tended to tell more extreme stories about their colleagues were more than three times more likely to feel fearful and 3.5 times more likely to lack the confidence to speak their minds with peers.


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How to have a conversation around tough topics

How to have a conversation around tough topics

  • Make it safe. When emotions escalate, reassure others of your respect for them.
  • Get curious. Rather than trying to decide who is right, aim to understand the other person's view. Ask questions and try to understand.
  • Start with facts behind your point of view, not judgments or opinions.
  • Don't focus on convincing. Your main goal should not be to change the other person's mind but to encourage sharing ideas.
  • Be confident in your opinion but humble enough to accept that you don't have all the answers and that new information might change your view.


103 reads



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