Talking about Talking

A day talking about talking. First of all in Keighley looking at how the town understands the difficult issue of sexual exploitation. This is a scourge that afflicts every community almost without exception. The consensus seems to be that this is something we must learn to talk about.

Discussing difficult issues is more that simply daring to speak. It is the very nature of the subject which holds us back from conversation not necessarily an unwillingness. As in many important areas of life we sometimes fail to find the language and the confidence to speak. In the case of sexual exploitation there is a fear of the facts, some of which are unclear and clouded by prejudice. We lack the confidence to speak because we worry about the consequences or the complexity of the issue and wonder if we have properly understood.

The second part of my day has been immersed in the discipline of Appreciative Inquiry. Appreciative Inquiry provides a framework for asking questions in a way that exposes the positive. Rather than asking about problems and weaknesses we ask what has been exceptional and  search for those golden nuggets which we can discover and refine. Apologies if this simplification betrays my inexperience of this.

The broader idea for today is that good dialogue requires space, framework, sensitivity. How we ask questions is as important as what we ask. The tools can seriously influence the answers you get.

Creating a safe and fair space for properly examining our work and issues is vital. We know from the General Elections that debate can be manipulated and steered in way that is outrageously manipulative. There were whole communities and issues that were not heard in the run up to the elections – and largely because some of them would have been problematic for any potential government.

To create a properly open space for conversation requires the courage to confront the answers you get. If we are being truly open then we have to set aside our inclination for confrontation and defensiveness. True dialogue will reveal that issues are often not as black and white as we might like to think – and that those we might condemn as being wrong may require understanding and accommodation.

A stimulating day.


Sheffield’s sexual explotation

Very sad to hear the reports from Sheffield about the sexual exploitation that goes on and the difficulty dealing with it.  I’m convinced it remains a not-properly-addressed  problem in many areas not just Sheffield.  The Sexual Exploitation Unit run by Ann Lucas did ask me to help them interview young people about their perceptions of sexual exploitation – big credit to them. You can see some of the clips below.

The film was intended to be shown in schools to help raise awareness and further discussion. I believe there was reluctance by the council to release the film to its intended audience, and I’m not sure it ever was. Don’t ask me why.

We called the film Can We Talk About This? because it was clear that many people want to avoid discussing the topic for a range of emotional and political reasons.  I hope we can be more open about this widespread problem, but I appreciate it’s difficult.  Download video