Skip to main content
  • How To Talk To Strangers…Lessons From A 4-Year old

The best educators in life  are children under age 5.  I experienced a week of education taught to 4 adults and a 9-year-old, on how to talk to strangers.

As we pulled up to our cabin, we were greeted by a 4-year-old. Immediately, she showed curiosity and openness that exists in most children before age 5. “Hi! Are you staying with us?” I told her we were her neighbours. She smiled, pointing to her stuffed animal said, This is Mr. Bunny.” I said it’s nice to meet Mr. Bunny and my name. I asked her name and she told me.  

…”when we whites try to talk openly and honestly about race, white fragility quickly emerges as we are often met with silence, defensiveness …and other forms of pushback…these are social forces that prevent us from attaining the racial knowledge we need…and they function powerfully to hold the racial hierarchy in place…” - Source: Dr. Robin DiAngelo White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People To Talk About Racism

…”to be an antiracist is a radical choice in the face of this history, requiring a radical reorientation of our consciousness” -Dr. Ibram X. Kendi - How to be an Antiracist

Fast forward 48 hours, and this little girl and I bonded as if we were always in each other’s lives. Because of this my husband, her parents, and her older sibling, met each other. Over the week we five spent time in the backyard, talking, laughing, and connecting on a human level. The 4-year-old bounced back and forth between us.

The data tells us by the time a white child is around 5 years-old, they have been socialized to know they are different from everyone around them whose skin colour is different from theirs. 

Think about this, when you were a child, how did your parents react when you asked a black person “why is your skin that colour”? or, you asked, “why is that lady in a wheel-chair”? or “why is that man so ‘fat’”? Most parents would shush the child, or tell them to be polite or, embarrassingly laugh off the questions without answering them.  

A moment of socialization just occurred, and a teaching opportunity missed for how to talk to those who look visibly different or have different abilities.

You stick with your own ‘tribe’ because of familiarity. For some whites because they do not know how to talk to BIPOC (BIPOC - Black, Indigenous, People of Color.) They are afraid to make a mistake, a faux pas, or be rejected. These are the top reasons some whites do not have BIPOCs in their circles.  

The older sister was a perfect example of what the literature on race and racism tells us. She did not look me in the eye at first, was cautious, and certainly showed more awareness of the ‘reality of life’ than her younger sister. But! Within the 48-hour period, she was sharing detailed stories about their adventures at camp, things about her school, favourite sports etc.  

What changed? Along with her family, she learned how to talk to people who they do not look like. They learned visible differences are not barriers but invitations to get to know folks as humans. 

It all start with a simple question, “Hi! Are you joining this department? Welcome!” or, “Hi! I’m Phyllis, welcome!?”   

So, you are rejected. Keep building these human bridges. They serve to support the next generation. That is all I want.  That our children and their children inherit a better world, because we took the time to talk to someone who did not look like us. 


Leave a Comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
Join Thrive!

We want you to live and work to your ultimate potential!

When you subscribe to our Thrive! Community you receive perks such as discounts on courses, workshops, coaching sessions and more! Plus, your membership provides you with transformational articles on topics specifically sourced to meet your life and work needs.

Click Here To Join Thrive!

Get in touch with us
Tell us what service you are interested in?
All the fields are required