Lately, I've been trying an experiment. When I'm working with people on social justice I encourage us to drop the jargon. Drop the ally, anti-racism, privilege, neo-liberal identitarianism, heteronormative cissexist patriarchy. To let it go.
I've noticed immediate changes.
"I really want to be a better anti-racist ally."
"Can you say that again but without using the word anti-racist and without using the word ally."
"Uhh... I really want to be more thoughtful and sensitive in my interactions with people of color."
I have found the conversation to become more honest, more vulnerable, and more actionable. Jargon I think sometimes serves a purpose to protect us, to make us feel smart and like we're saying something important. And we need that sometimes, we need to feel smart and we need other people to hear us as saying something important. But a lot of times we get stuck. We don't know how to get back down to earth with people and have a personal conversation. When instead of us making us feel like we're saying something important the jargon transforms to put a wall between us and the people we're talking to, instead of making us feel smart, it instead serves to make the other person feel stupid.
Want a 100% guaranteed way to burn yourself out?
Set yourself a goal of changing someone's mind.
No one can *make* me change my mind. No one can *make* me believe something. People don't convince me of things, I convince myself. I hear something and then some part inside of me goes, "Omg, that is true, I agree with that," or "Gosh you know, that explains that thing I was struggling with, I'm so glad I know that now." Someone can water a little seed of doubt that already exists within me and that can eventually shift my thinking. But no one can make me change my mind.
We know this as little kids. "Nuh-uh you can't make me."
But sometimes, in the name of the righteous, beautiful, or socially just things that we believe we try anyway. We try to change other people's minds.
And then we get tired. And burnt out. And defeated. Because it's not working. It's not working.
We need other strategies. And they are out there. But first we need to give up on this being one of them.
Sometimes you want an expert.
To wire a house for electricity.
To fix your car.
To be your therapist therapist.
To make you sushi.
But when you want to learn something, you want a teacher. And experts can be the worst teachers.
I remember in high school wanting to learn how to hockey stop on ice skates. My friend Jess had been skating for basically her whole life and we were on her pond in her back yard (#Vermont). She kept doing a hockey stop and saying, "I dunno you just... do it. I dunno, it's just like this I guess." She was an incredible skater. And had absolutely no idea how to teach it.
Expert does not equal teacher.