My wife Linda only managed to get me two unexpected gifts this year, and this book was one of them. While my Pixel Buds headphones are pretty sweet, I think this will prove far more valuable in the end (unbeknownst to her, I’ve actually been watching Emmanuel Acho’s YouTube show—same name as the book—over the last few months).
And don’t let the title scare you off—as I’ve become more familiar with his conversational style and his approach to interpersonal relationships through his videos, I’ve realized that it’s kind of deliberately misleading. A longer but more accurate title might be “Uncomfortable Conversations White People Have with Themselves, Guided by a Black Man”. He practically exudes openness and a desire to understand others, and seeks to draw out conversations that his guests would likely otherwise feel too uncomfortable to have with him—not because of him, but because of what they have to confront and acknowledge about themselves and their own beliefs, feelings, and assumptions. And if that weren’t enough, he rarely (if ever) presents himself as if he has all the answers, or even just the correct answers in the moment. He truly seems to be interested in hearing others’ experiences, and seems to regard those experiences as valid in their own right, even if he disagrees with the attitudes or beliefs that come from them.
I am of the belief that real personal change—true progress of character, not just superficial window dressing improvements—requires one to examine every part of one’s beliefs and assumptions about the world and others. And if that examination isn’t fundamentally uncomfortable, then you’re not looking closely enough at yourself, or you just aren’t picking hard enough at the cracks in your own logic. So while I’m not big on resolutions, I’d like to at least make something of a public commitment this year. I want to have uncomfortable conversations with people, specifically with people whose experiences or beliefs or values differ fundamentally from mine. I want to truly understand others’ views, not just listen to them so I can convince them that my view or opinion is more correct.
So please. Approach me in public. Approach me in private. Slide into my DMs, if that’s still a thing the kids are doing in 2021. Make me uncomfortable by forcing me to examine the cores of my beliefs and help me to understand yours, and I promise that I will do my absolute best to see the conversation through to the end, and hopefully we can all grow a little bit closer together through mutual understanding this year, rather than inching further and further apart.
Happy New Year, everyone. Yes, the world is a mess. Some of it isn’t our fault, but all of it is our problem. Let’s try to make it better together.