Talking Across Difference

by Donna Rich Kaplowitz, Ph.D., Co-Director, The Program on Intergroup Relations, The University of Michigan

The genesis for this video came years ago when I was advising a high school group called Students for Gender Equality while simultaneously teaching college students in dialogic community-based social justice courses. For many people, going home for Thanksgiving after nearly three months diving into issues of identity, power and privilege presented new and sometimes traumatic challenges. 

After years of listening to my students return to campus after Thanksgiving break with tales of escalating tension brought on, in part, by their new critical consciousness, I felt my teaching practice was negligent in preparing students to have productive and meaningful conversations across a variety of identity and ideological divides. Hence, I developed a workshop specifically intended for participants who have developed a social justice lens through which they interpret the world but lack specific skills in productively sharing their perspective with others. Because Covid-19 sidelined in-person workshops, I attempt to capture some of the essential learning from the workshop in this video. 

This video is specifically targeted for those who seek a socially justice world and want some very concrete skills to talk to people with whom they may have deep relationships but different viewpoints. The goal in these conversations is not to avoid conflict, but to surface differences while simultaneously doing three things: 1) being open to listening to other perspectives; 2) thoughtfully introduce people to new interpretations our shared reality in ways they can appreciate; and 3) maintaining a strong connection to others. 

Since its original format, this workshop has been delivered to faculty, staff, graduate students, college and high school students, and community members. I hope it provides viewers with some additional tools for their toolbox to talk across difference.


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