Listening to people’s stories, we can get a fuller picture of what people’s lives are like–their feelings, their nuances, and the richness of their lives. Listening to people also helps us get through our numbness– there is a real person before us, not someone who is reduced to stereotypes in the media.
Additionally, listening to members of groups that have been discriminated against can give us a better understanding of what that experience is like. Listening gives us a picture of discrimination that is more real than what we can get from reading an article or listening to the radio.
It also seems that the more vocal people are those that are members of the more mainstream culture, while those who are less vocal are from minority cultures
You can informally ask people in your neighborhood or organization to tell you a part of their life stories as a member of a particular group. Have people each take five or ten minutes to talk about one piece of their life stories. If the group is large, you will probably have to divide into small groups, so everyone gets a chance to speak.
We all have a tendency to assume that the way that most people do things is the acceptable, normal, or right way. As community workers, we need to learn about cultural differences in values and communication styles, and not assume that the majority way is the right way to think or behave.
You are in a group discussion. Some group members don’t speak up, while others dominate, filling all the silences. The more vocal members of the group become exasperated that others don’t talk.
In some cultures, people feel uncomfortable with silence, so they speak to fill the silences. In other cultures, it is customary to wait for a period of silence before speaking. If there aren’t any silences, people from those cultures may not ever speak. Also, members of some groups (women, people of low income, some racial and ethnic minorities, and others) don’t speak up because they have received messages from society at large that their contribution is not as important as others; they have gotten into the habit of deferring their thinking to the thinking of others.
When some people don’t share their thinking, we all lose out. We all need the opinions and voices of those people who have traditionally been discouraged from contributing.
In situations like the one described above, becoming impatient with lesbian hookup stories people for not speaking is usually counter-productive. For example, you can:
- Have people break into pairs before discussing a topic in the larger group.
- At certain times have each person in the circle make a comment. (People can pass if they want to.)
- Follow a guideline that everyone speaks once, before anyone speaks twice.
- Invite the quieter people to lead part of the meeting.
- Talk about the problem openly in a meeting, and invite the more vocal people to try to speak less often.
- Between meetings, ask the quieter people what would help them speak, or ask them for their ideas on how a meeting should be run.
However, you can structure a meeting to encourage the quieter people to speak
A high school basketball team has to practice and play on many afternoons and evenings. One team member is a recent immigrant whose family requires her to attend the birthday parties of all the relatives in her extended family. The coach is angry with the parents for this requirement, because it takes his player away from the team.