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We Are Works In Progress

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Mich chapter.


National tensions are high as our nation grapples with some of the events that have occurred within the past few weeks and months. Questioning of universities’ handling of sexual misconduct and violence, and events that have sparked conversation regarding the racial climate in the U.S are among a myriad of these issues.  These tensions and conversations are reflected on our campus and it is in this space that we begin to develop the skills necessary in learning to navigate our social world. With this comes an inevitable clashing of opinions, beliefs, practices and understandings because of differences in backgrounds and past experiences. These conversations often become more about “winning” and steer far away from the issues that are the center of the discussions. Listed below are some ways to proactively be a part of some of these complex conversations.


Hearing Vs. Listening

When someone is speaking, it is really easy to hear what they are saying while we construct our responses in our head or simply wait for our turn to speak. In doing this we miss the importance of “hearing others out” as it becomes less about what others have said and more about what we are preparing to say. Listening closely and actively expands the space as we are able to absorb new information as well as helps us to respond even more comprehensively. While our opinions may not change, by listening there is greater chance to walk away with more knowledge and awareness of perspectives that may differ from our own.



These conversations are personal as those involved are bringing their lived experiences to the table. Whether or not we agree with someone, it is important to recognize and affirm this vulnerability as it is sometimes painful and if nothing else honest.



Confronting discomfort is a large part of being a part of these conversations. It is helpful to learn to embrace sweaty palms and long silences that can come with tension. Discomfort is sometimes mistaken as an attack or accusation; however, learning to distinguish these can change the way we participate. Just like exercise, if we don’t feel something, it’s not working. Embrace and settle into discomfort and work the muscles of social interaction.



These conversations can be difficult and emotionally taxing and debilitating. In these spaces it is helpful to assure that we have those to support and affirm us in our vulnerability, discomfort, learning and growth. If this is not always possible, it is important to have spaces where we can rebuild and refresh.


Lastly, remember that we are works in progress. We have not yet arrived and will likely spend our whole lives working to get there. The human condition is that we are forever striving, learning, growing, and transforming. Be compassionate. Be kind. Be confident. Be brave. Be aware. Be generous with what you have to give and be open with what you can take. Stay true to yourself, but be willing to be something different than you imagined yourself you could become.


(photo credit: http://iamupinthecloud.tumblr.com/post/103987714741)