Tools For Talking

Starting difficult and complex conversations isn’t easy. If it were, we likely wouldn’t be in the place we are in the South when it comes to women’s health and well-being. The good news is that everyone can learn how to lean into tough conversations and make them productive. And the more you do it, the better you will become.

Below are some resources to help you get started. We’re continuing to build resources for this work to share with you—so check back often!

Guidelines for Discussion

When having key conversations, the Every Woman Southeast Leadership Team works hard to follow the guidelines below:

  • Speak from the “I”
  • Disagree but do not shame, blame or attack
  • Accept messiness and practice non-closure
  • Embrace paradox and use both/and thinking
  • Lean into discomfort and each other
  • Maintain confidentiality

To learn more about each of the guidelines, click here.

Thanks to the William C. Friday Fellowship for Human Relations for sharing these guidelines with us. They were adapted from several sources, including VISIONS, Inc. Guidelines; OpenSource Leadership Strategies’ group norms; and materials from The Center for Dialogue in Brevard, NC.


People have always used stories to share ideas, teach lessons and get people talking. They are a powerful communication tool—and one we should include in the work we’re doing to improve the health and well-being of all women in the South. The following are examples of some very effective approaches to storytelling:

The Gardener's Tale

Dr. Camara Phyllis Jones created The Gardener's Tale to provide a framework for understanding racism on three levels – institutionalized, personally mediated and internalized. It is an allegory using flowers to illustrate her points. This approach has offered many people and groups a chance to talk through a complex and difficult topic in a new way. The Gardener's Tale gives the reader and groups a chance to "unpack" the story and discover its truths. This is one really good way to talk. To watch a video of Dr. Jones talking about her piece click here.

TED Talks

TED Talks can provide an opening for discussion on many different topics. For example, Melody Hobson’s TED Talk on Color Blind or Color Brave? is a great conversation starter. Between TED and TED Ex events, there are a lot of great stories out there to help you begin.

Other Resources to Explore

Fostering Dialogue Across Divides, A Nuts and Bolts Guide from the Public Conversations Project offers a variety of ways to launch complex conversations. This work was written by Maggie Herzig and Laura Chasin and funded by the JAMS Foundation.

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking when Stakes are High is a book by Patterson, Grenny, McMillan and Switzler in 2002 that offers a chance to read and reflect on how to have successful conversations on challenging topics – from work related issues to more globally complex social challenges.

Pro-Voice by Aspen Baker is a new book that focuses on how to help men and women have respectful, compassionate exchanges about controversial topics. In it, she focuses on one of the most complex topics in women’s health – abortion – and finding ways to share feelings and ideas between the pro-life and pro-choice factions. If you read it, let us know what you think!