Dialogue Archives - Point Made Learning
Photo of Andre Lee and Barb Lee having a discussion.
Point Made Learning team members showing how you do productive dialogue!

Come holiday season, we often brace ourselves as we prepare to step outside of our bubbles and break bread with friends and relatives whose beliefs we find… problematic. This year, we’re seeing this as an opportunity to engage in and model productive dialogue.

Doing this with loved ones can be even harder than doing it with the rest of the world. So, we can think of it as training. [tweetshareinline tweet=”We’re not going to bite our tongues just for the sake of keeping things even-Steven at the dinner table.” username=”PM_Learn”]

If you want to give this a try, we’ve got a few tactics we rely on when we facilitate our workshops. These Guiding Principles help in everyday conversations, too.

And we’re not the only ones who have this on our minds this week. So we’re also providing you with a few resources we’ve come across from some of the writers and organizations we continue to learn from.

We hope this helps and feel free to leave a comment if you think we’ve left anything out!


Try to avoid the term “racist.”

Or “sexist,” “homophobe,” etc. This is a hard one because one of these might be the exact term to describe whatever comments you’re hearing from your aunt’s new boyfriend (We even have a film with “Racist” in the title!). And these may be so offensive that the only thing you can do is declare, “That’s racist!” And then walk away. BUT… If you’re hoping to make some headway with a family member you really care about, that’s going to stop the conversation. You may feel some temporary self-satisfaction at calling that person out, but it’s not very effective. Instead, try this…

Ask Questions

[tweetshareinline tweet=”Put the responsibility on the other person to explain or justify what they’ve said.” username=”PM_Learn”] This works especially well when someone makes generalizations or stereotypes. These will usually fall apart with just a few critical questions like:

“What makes you say that?”

“When you say, ‘they all…’, who is ‘they’?”

“What in your experience has given you that opinion?”

“Can you tell me a little more about why you said that?”

And if you can muster all your energy to ask these questions with a tone of curiosity, instead of judgment or disgust, they will work that much better. Look, we didn’t say this would be easy!

Don’t try to win an argument.

If, at Thanksgiving dinner, your Uncle Bob has just declared that all men are under attack in the workplace in the midst of all these sexual harassment and assault allegations in the news, you’re probably not going to convince him otherwise that particular evening. Nor will you be able to teach him about the history and continued prevalence of sexism, misogyny, and toxic masculinity. So, again, if your intention is to be effective, then start out slowly. Meet him where he is. And ask questions.

When I hear comments like that, I usually try something like, “Interesting (it works to say something validating first!). I’ve heard that perspective, but I don’t quite understand why men would feel that way. Can you help me understand your point?”

Then, “Ok, thanks for that. I have a different take on it. Are you open to hearing an alternative perspective?”

If he says, “Sure,” then you get a turn!

If he says, “No.” Well, then, don’t waste your breath and go pour yourself another glass of wine or have a second helping of pie. You’ll have earned it – you didn’t let the offensive comments go unchecked and you maintained your sanity.

Here’s one other thing I make sure to do in these instances: If my kids have had to hear anything ignorant or offensive, I take some time to have a longer conversation with them.

Repeat the other person’s point.

If you do find yourself engaged in a heated discussion or full-blown argument, you’ll probably feel like the other person isn’t really hearing you (they’ll feel the same way about you, by the way). As a last-ditch effort, try stating the other person’s point in your own words: “Ok, I want to make sure I understand your point. I think what you’re saying is…” Give them time to clarify. Then ask them if they can do the same for you. You will likely both still disagree with one another in that moment, but there’s always a chance that later, when they are on their own and not trying to double down or save face in front of other people (in other words, protecting their ego), you may have planted a seed in their minds.

OK, that’s it – these are the four principles we try to rely on when trying to have productive conversations. Now here are some other resources we’ve found to be really helpful…

Should You Even Speak Up At All?

Can You Stay Civil By Keeping Quiet? – NPR

“When a tough topic comes up around a table of friends and family, it’s all too easy to take a deep breath and hold it in. Instead of staring down a contentious cousin, it might feel safer to stare at your phone, just to avoid that political debate you’re dreading. But civility and conversation can lead to better relationships, greater creativity and boost the economy.”

Justice Lens

Racial Justice Guide to Thanksgiving – Border Crossers

Our friends at Border Crossers put together this list of books, lessons, videos, and more. Incredible resource for educators and parents who are ready to rear children through a justice lens.

Know Your History

Most Everything You Learned About Thanksgiving Is Wrong – NY Times

This came our way from our friend – author-speaker-activist Dr. Eddie Moore, Jr. From the piece:

“Not to rain on our Thanksgiving Day parade, but the story of the first Thanksgiving, as most Americans have been taught it, is not exactly accurate.”

This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a good meal, practice gratitude, and spend time with loved ones. But don’t you want to know the real history?

Zen Zone

How to Talk with Your Relatives Over the Holidays – On Being

This article from columnist Sharon Salzberg, an author and meditation teacher, will help you find some calm and grounding as you engage in discussions.

A Little Humor Helps

Nation’s Uncles Enter Last Stage of Prep for Thursday’s Thanksgiving Debates – The Onion

Because we have to have a laugh sometimes.

You may have heard in the past few weeks: we’ve expanded our I’m Not Racist… Am I? screening-workshop model. Now, schools and organizations can use the film themselves as a tool in their antiracism work. We’re still taking the film out ourselves, too. But our new YOULead program makes seeing the film more affordable. And it includes a 3.5-hour online antiracism course and facilitation training. We hope this builds an even bigger team of leaders ready to strengthen more communities around the country.

Now It’s Your Turn to Lead Antiracism Dialogue

"I'm Not Racist... Am I" screens on display before a university screening and antiracism workshop.
“I’m Not Racist… Am I?” has screened nearly 400 times, bringing antiracism discussions to communities all over the United States.

If you sign up for this program, we’ll first provide you with access to our new online course – I’m Not Racist… Am I? Digital. Then, you’ll go through a video conference coaching session with one of our master facilitators to prepare you for showing the film and leading post-screening discussions in your community. Once you complete all of this, you’ll get:

  • A 5-day license to screen the film as many times as you want, for as many viewers in your community as you’d like.
  • Lifetime access to our Look Deeper curriculum, which includes film clips, bonus videos, discussion guides, and lesson plans.

Our plan is to give you what you need for sustained antiracism work and continued engagement with the subject matter.

We first announced this program a few weeks ago so we’ve now had a handful of organizations go through it. And we think it’s working! Keep reading to find out more.

Our very first YOULead was organized by a city-county partnership in Iowa City, Iowa – the Johnson County Disproportionate Minority Contact Committee and the City of Iowa City Equity and Human Rights Office – led by LaTasha DeLoach, a licensed master social worker. Below is LaTasha’s write-up of their event last week. And here’s some local press coverage of the event.

If you’re ready to sign your organization up for YOULead, send us an email: programming@pointmade.com

Notes from the Field – LaTasha DeLoach, Iowa City

Approximately 120 community members attended our first screening of I Am Not A Racist…Am I? Attendees were very diverse in age and were overall representative of the Iowa City community. Following the screening and an hour and a half facilitated discussion, attendees were asked to complete a brief survey about their experience (See the attached survey on page 2). Overall, survey results were very supportive of the film. 100% of respondents said they would recommend the event to their friends and family. Attendees were also asked to rate various aspects of the screening on a scale of 1-5 (with 1 being the worst and 5 being the best). Below are the average scores for each component of the event:

  • Content: 4.85
  • Logistics & Organization: 4.76
  • Engagement & Conversation: 4.5
  • Location/Date/Time: 4.47

Attendees were also asked to comment on their favorite part of the event. Majority of comments were on the content of the film, how thought provoking it was, and how much they loved the focus on youth. They also enjoyed the discussion.

Below are a few of the responses we received:

“I’d heard about it – great film. Great to see this from the eyes of teens – ingenious way of getting us older folks in.”

“Enlightening! Hearing different points of view. Made me examine my own thinking.”

“The ideas it uncovered; the pressing for discussion.”

“It was funny, relatable which made it easier to digest as a white person.”

“The opportunity to learn more about racism and its effect on society and individuals. The maturity of the teens involved was impressive.”

“Great film and great chance for community to come together and learn from each other.”

“Great attendance! I go to similar community events in town often and don’t see this many people or range of ages. Whatever you did to get word out it worked.”

When asked how the event could be improved, most attendees mentioned needing more time for discussion and having the screening at an earlier time, on weekends, or doing it more often. Some of the attendee comments include:

“Need to know more about how the systemic oppression works.”

“Take it to the schools.”


If you’ve been wanting to incorporate I’m Not Racist… Am I? into your antiracism work, but haven’t been able to make our model fit with your budget and objectives, we hope this new program makes sense for you. If you’re ready to try YOULead, send us an email: programming@pointmade.com