Discussion Watch Cultural Humility (2012) AND Read Barrera & Kramer (2012)    500 words concept: Cultural Humility and  Skilled Dialogue . a) What connec

Discussion Watch Cultural Humility (2012) AND Read Barrera & Kramer (2012)    500 words

concept: Cultural Humility and  Skilled Dialogue .

a) What connections do you see between the two concepts?

b) Both of these were published in 2012, do you think these concepts are still relevant to the field of children and youths, why or why not? 

c) Which ones do you want to cultivate or strengthen and why?

Source: video: Cultural Humility:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SaSHLbS1V4w

Skilled Dialogue: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K3sAdIsHFWU Using Skilled Dialogue
to Transform Challenging


Isaura Barrera

Lucinda Kramer

national assoiation
for the education
of young children

What is a typical family? What language can we expect children in our class-
rooms to understand and speak? What are the behaviors that best express
respect for this family? The answers to these questions are no longer as clear-
cut as they once were—or appeared to be.

It is not enough to simply know that there is diversity, or even to know
the types of diversity associated with various groups. Knowing that someone
may be consistently late for scheduled meetings because of their culturally
based values and frame of reference, for example, can be helpful. But it likely
will not lessen the frustration of the colleagues who are waiting, or change
the fact that there was only one available meeting time for everyone. One
person will continue to feel the need for the other to share their value of
punctuality (“After all, how else can we get things done?” she may ask. “Am
I just supposed to accept and indeed respect their consistent lateness?”).
Something more is required.

The two-part article we have written focuses on this something more.
It describes Skilled Dialogue, an approach to diversity that promotes the
creation of interpersonal contexts within which the riches of diverse identi-
ties and voices—and the connections between them—can be accessed and
unimagined options created. This approach emphasizes the need to trans-
form our understanding of and relationship to the differences expressed by
those with whom we interact, whether children or adults.

Part I: Target Qualities and Critical Dispositions introduces the larger
framework for Skilled Dialogue, which is composed of three key qualities
and two dispositions. Part II: Strategies and Implementation then focuses
more directly on the specific strategies for sustaining these qualities and
concretizing the dispositions.

Part I: Target Qualities and Critical Dispositions

Over the past few decades, a great deal of emphasis has been placed on acknowledging and understanding cultural and linguistic diversity, especially in early childhood settings. Many resources discuss its various challenges and provide detailed in-
formation on behaviors, values, and beliefs associated with different cultural
communities. In today’s increasingly multicultural world, however, individ-
ual families and children rarely fit neatly into established cultural categories.

Today most children grow up in environments that contain elements
of several cultures combined in nontraditional ways (Maloney 2009; See-
ley & Wasilewski 1996). A child may be American Indian, for example, but
live in an urban area with little exposure to traditional practices. That same
child may spend time on a reservation with his Indian grandmother as well
as time on a Kansas farm with his Norwegian grandfather. Often, fami-
lies themselves are multicultural communities in miniature. There may be
parents with one or more root cultures, internationally adopted children,
or grandparents with diverse religions or sexual orientations. In addition,
classrooms and educational settings themselves can be a microcosm of our
multicultural society. A single classroom could have up to 15 (or more)
different cultures represented by both staff and children, making it impos-
sible to learn all the specific details of each represented culture (which keep
changing from year to year).

Parallel to this challenge is another that only adds to the complexities
of becoming culturally responsive: the challenge of an increasing focus on
standardized, sometimes even scripted, curriculum. Such curriculum is of-
ten validated based on research that has only minimally addressed the range
of individual, social, and cultural diversities represented within the groups
of children on which it is conducted. For example, samples of Hispanic
children may have been included without controlling for country of origin
or for how many are third- or fifth-generation U.S. citizens. Many programs
now adopt such “evidence-based” curriculum without sufficient recognition
of how little flexibility there is to adjust to the multiple aspects of diversity or
how restrictive its attention to these aspects may be.

Finally, to further confound the issues, Parker Palmer identifies an ad-
ditional challenge. His words “we teach who we are” (1998, 2) highlight
the challenge posed by our own identities and roles as cultural, social, and
psychological beings focusing on inspiring learning. This challenge is one
that tends to be addressed much less frequently than the first two, perhaps

Selected material from I. Barrera and L. Kramer. Using Skilled Dialogue to
Transform Challenging Interactions: Honoring Identity, Voice, and Connec-
tion. Copyright © 2009 by Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co., Inc. Baltimore.
And from I. Barrera, L. Kramer, and D. MacPherson. Skilled Dialogue for
Responding to Cultural Diversity in Early Childhood, Second edition. Copy-
right © 2012 by Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co., Inc. Baltimore.

2 • Using Skilled Dialogue to Transform Challenging Interactions Using Skilled Dialogue to Transform Challenging Interactions • 3



because it appears less objective.
“Viewed from this angle, teaching holds a mirror to the soul. If I am will-

ing to look in the mirror and not run from what I see, I have a chance to gain
self-knowledge—and knowing myself is as crucial to good teaching as know-
ing my students or my subject” (Palmer 1998, 2, italics added). Though this
was a rather radical thing to say in 1998, recent research is increasingly prov-
ing its validity. Research into emotional and social intelligence, brain and bio-
chemical functioning, and mirror neurons, for example, is now proving that
teaching who we are is much more than a simple subjective or philosophical
belief (Cozolino 2006; Goleman 2006; Jaffe 2007; Rizzolatti et. al 2006).

Palmer goes on to say that “When I do not know myself, I cannot know
my subject—not at the deepest levels of embodied, personal meaning. I
will know it only abstractly, from a distance, a [cluster] of concepts as far
removed from the [children’s] world as I am from my personal truth” (1998,
2). Without addressing this third challenge, therefore, curriculum remains
not only scripted but also ultimately and deeply unreal, teaching children to
learn only in a similarly scripted fashion and leaving them unable to transfer
classroom learning to their unscripted and often dissimilar outside world(s).

SkIlled dIalogue

The challenges posed by cultural linguistic diversity are thus multilayered
and multifaceted. Skilled Dialogue was first developed as the authors them-
selves grappled with these three challenges; it was more deeply refined as
we began to prepare early childhood educators. Our focus shifted from
“How do I interact with people from this culture or that culture?” to “When
I’m interacting with others who believe or behave in ways I find difficult to
understand or accept, how can I best craft interactions that are respectful
(honor their identity as well as mine), reciprocal (honor their voice as well
as mine), and responsive (honor the fact that all behavior, no matter how
diverse, is connected)?”

SkIlled dIalogue’S three key qualItIeS
The presence or absence of Skilled Dialogue can be determined by the
degree to which all participants in an interaction experience their identities,
voices, and connections acknowledged and honored (that is, not marginal-
ized or placed apart from the whole). It is not unusual to hear someone say,
“That person knew a lot about my culture, but I did not feel that she really
heard me or even believed that we could really collaborate as equals.” Con-

versely, it is not uncommon for someone who knows very little about some-
one else’s cultures to establish truly successful relationships with that other
person even when he does not have all the necessary cultural information
beforehand. The contrast between these two perspectives is what first led us
to identify the three key qualities of Skilled Dialogue: respect, reciprocity,
and responsiveness.

The quality of respect is much talked about yet seldom defined other

than as just a set of behaviors or social courtesies. From a Skilled Dia-
logue perspective, however, respect is much more: It is honoring anoth-
er’s identity as a valued and valuable individual and as a participant in
multiple social and cultural communities—rather than only as a repre-
sentative of a particular culture.

To honor someone’s identity is to see that person as she defines
herself, not as we define her. To do that, we must interact with the actual
person, not just with our idea of that person. An “overwhelmed mom,”
for example, may define herself as an American Indian, an artist, a
storyteller, someone ashamed of who she is, or someone overwhelmed
by the stress of needing to learn how to navigate an entirely new cultural
environment—or she may well define herself as all of those things at the
same time. A child who seldom speaks may define himself as a child
struggling with stuttering as well as a child from a culture considered to
be less socially verbal—or perhaps as only one of those. Everyone’s self-
definition is multifaceted and multidimensional.

The second quality of Skilled Dialogue, reciprocity, focuses on honoring

voice—that is, on honoring the expression of identity. Used here, voice
includes words and behaviors as well as products (for example, pictures
drawn by a child, gifts offered by a family member). Establishing and
sustaining reciprocity requires recognizing the value and validity of
another’s voice to the same degree as we recognize the value and validity
of our own—acknowledging that they have as much to contribute in a
given situation as we believe we do.

One simple reflection of reciprocity is the proportion of time given
to listening to another’s views, beliefs, and opinions. It is unfortunately
too common for practitioners to talk more than the children or family
members with whom they are talking. Underlying this inequity is usu-

4 • Using Skilled Dialogue to Transform Challenging Interactions Using Skilled Dialogue to Transform Challenging Interactions • 5

ally the belief that “experts” and “leaders” have more to contribute than
“learners” and “followers.”

In contrast, reciprocal interactions happen when we allow ourselves
to be learners as well as teachers. After all, it is when we feel that we are
active and valued participants that we have the greatest motivation to
work with someone.

The third quality important in Skilled Dialogue, responsiveness, honors the

fact that all beliefs, perspectives, and behaviors are connected, no matter
how contradictory they may seem. To be responsive involves entertaining
the possibility of connection; it requires that we ask ourselves how another’s
perspective connects with our own, rather than assuming that diverse per-
spectives are mutually exclusive. One metaphor for this focus on connection
is to think of interactions as three-legged races. The diverse perspectives,
values, and beliefs of participants in an interaction remain tied together, fu-
eling and supporting each other much like the two legs that are tied together.
Even when it seems each is pulling in a separate direction, neither is moving
independently of the other.

Honoring connection requires that practitioners acknowledge problems
as “ours” and not just “theirs.” The reality is that I am always contributing
something to the creation and continued existence of the very problems I’m
trying to solve. If I am frustrated with someone’s failure to listen, I am also,
in some way, doing something to sustain their not listening. Perhaps I’m not
listening to them, or perhaps it’s not really fun to listen to someone whose
face tells the other person all too clearly that they are not meeting expecta-
tions. In honoring connection, responsiveness both deepens and extends
respect and reciprocity.

Finally, responsive interactions focus on the people involved rather than
on the identified problem. The stereotypical nonresponsive scenario is the
phone helpline that simply puts your question in a preexisting category—
Question #456—and then proceeds to give the prescribed answer—Answer
#456—without regard for who you are or the unique aspects of the question.

While everyone agrees on the value of respect, reciprocity, and respon-
siveness, it is not always easy to create and sustain these in our interactions.
We are not always disposed towards the other in ways that support these
qualities. For example, how can I communicate respect when I believe the
other person needs to change? What happens to reciprocity if I believe I
need to repeatedly state my case rather than listen to the other person’s

objections? How can I be responsive when all I can see is the chasm between
our perspectives? In response to these questions, Skilled Dialogue encour-
ages the adoption of two dispositions prior to the implementation of its
specific strategies.

Early models of Skilled Dialogue did not address dispositions. As we ex-
plored interactions across diverse identities and voices over the past 10
years, however, we realized that it was not enough to simply provide specific
strategies. We found that maintaining respect, reciprocity, and responsive-
ness involves more than just exhibiting the behaviors identified as most ap-
propriate for working with given groups (for example, using less direct eye
contact, asking fewer questions). It also involves the intentions and attitudes
(that is, dispositions) that underlay those behaviors. Research outside of
Skilled Dialogue supports this point. It is increasingly proven that how we
do something—thoughtfully, without thought, for its own value, as a means
to an end—has a significant impact on how our actions are interpreted and,
therefore, on how others respond to us (Langer 2005). There is also ample
anecdotal evidence: think of the difference between someone who offers to
help us because they want something and someone who offers to help us out
of a genuine caring for our well-being (Kahane 2004).

As we studied interactions across diverse identities and voices, two
dispositions emerged as most critical to establishing and sustaining respect,
reciprocity, and responsiveness: Choosing Relationship over Control and
Setting the Stage for Miracles. Figure 1. Skilled Dialogue Framework shows
the core question associated with each of these dispositions. (As shown in
Figure 2 on p. 24, the strategies may be read horizontally, according to the

choosing relationship
over control

Have I made an intentional
choice to give greater
priority to who you are in
relation to me and who I
am in relation to you than
to what I want you to
do or how I want you to


(Honoring Identity)

(Honoring Voice)

(Honoring Connection)

Setting the Stage for

Do I believe there really are
“third choices,” and am I
intentionally remaining open
to discovering these choices
even when existing evidence
seems to indicate there is only
this choice or that choice?

Figure 1: Skilled Dialogue Framework


6 • Using Skilled Dialogue to Transform Challenging Interactions Using Skilled Dialogue to Transform Challenging Interactions • 7

quality they help establish and sustain, or vertically, according to the dispo-
sition they express. In this article, we will read them horizontally. The reason
for this is that, in practice, it is more effective to “braid” the dispositions,
addressing first one and then the other, rather than to try to establish either
independently of the other.)

chooSIng relatIonShIP over control
The disposition of Choosing Relationship over Control reflects our intentional
choice to give priority to people rather than to our desired outcomes; that is, to
pay more attention to who the other is in relation to me and who I am in rela-
tion to him than to what I want him to do.

If we choose control and limit our focus to having others do what we’ve
determined is best for them, the intended changes become more important than
the person we wish to change. Our regard becomes conditional on their change.

In contrast, when we choose relationship, the change we seek is not forgot-
ten, but neither is it imposed. We dignify the person with whom we are interact-
ing by communicating that he is more important than the change we wish for.
Instead the change becomes something that we wish to inspire the other person
to consider rather than a condition we impose in order for them to become “ac-
ceptable” or “competent” in our eyes.

The following 10 aspects characterize the nature of Choosing Relation-
ship over Control:

an assumption of equal capability to craft an effective response to the
situation at hand

a recognition that another’s behavior, no matter how different from
ours, is as evidence-based as our own

a willingness to communicate unconditional respect
a sense of curiosity rather than certainty
a learner’s attitude and mindset
nonjudgmental information-gathering
perspective-taking (that is, seeing things from another’s perspective as

well as our own)
explicit recognition of the messages we send through our words and

recognition that even contradictory behaviors can be complementary
a willingness to change our words and behaviors
Readers can find a full discussion of these 10 aspects in Barrera and Kram-

er’s 2009 book Using Skilled Dialogue to Transform Challenging Interactions.

SettIng the Stage For MIracleS
Setting the Stage for Miracles is a corollary disposition that focuses on the inten-
tional choice to remain open to creative options other than our own. This disposi-
tion moves us away from fixed agendas and outcomes toward more open-ended
collaborations that leave room for another’s strengths and creativity to generate
unanticipated and unpredicted changes. It insists on the possibility of “miracles”—
outcomes that cannot be predicted from the existing data.

This disposition invites us to consider the possibility that a child or a parent
may change even when we are certain they can’t or won’t. It asks us to allow for the
possibility of such “incredible” options instead of remaining imprisoned by what
we are certain can or can’t happen. Just as there is ample anecdotal evidence for the
importance of dispositions in general, there is also ample evidence that unpredict-
able changes occur all the time. Many of us may know a child who learned to read
despite all predictions to the contrary, for example. We personally know of a child
with cortical blindness who initially presenting as a child with no language, no
consistent responses to adults other than screaming, and no stable movement or
walking. She achieved age level development in many areas within just a few years.

Setting the Stage for Miracles is characterized by the following eight aspects:
a willingness to stay with the tension of differing, even contradictory,

beliefs or opinions without trying to change them
a willingness to let go of our stories and fixed interpretations of another’s

behaviors and beliefs
the perception of diverse perspectives as potentially complementary

rather than divisive
a willingness to identify the “gold nuggets” in another’s behaviors and

the recognition that every negative behavior is a positive behavior in its

exaggerated form
a willingness to learn from another’s behaviors and beliefs
a willingness to reframe and rethink our perceptions
the ability and willingness to “think in threes” rather than dualistically in


What doeS SkIlled dIalogue look lIke?

Head Start teacher Camilla is frequently frustrated when working with
Joey, a 3-year-old child who resists direction and exhibits highly disruptive
behaviors. According to Camilla, working with Joey’s mother, JoAnne, to
remedy the situation is equally frustrating:

8 • Using Skilled Dialogue to Transform Challenging Interactions Using Skilled Dialogue to Transform Challenging Interactions • 9

JoAnne believes that there is nothing she can do about Joey’s
behaviors and that he just needs “more room.” When I talk with
her about the need for more structured behavioral consequences,
she tells me that Joey is a spirited child and, while she can see the
problems he is having in our program, she thinks that the rec-
ommended structured routines and consequences are both time
consuming and impractical. “And besides,” she often adds, “Joey
is a bright, creative child, and I don’t want to squash that. He’ll
settle down as he gets a bit older. My brother had much the same
problems as a child, and he’s just fine now.”

What might adopting Skilled Dialogue’s two dispositions look like
in this case? Table 1. How Camilla Might Express Skilled Dialogue’s Two
Dispositions shows some summary responses to that question. These
responses are only examples, of course, designed to give the reader the
“flavor” of Skilled Dialogue in action. This still leaves the question of
what strategies might support such responses.

StrategIeS PrevIeW

Skilled Dialogue offers six strategies to support the development of respons-
es such as those shown in Table 1. These strategies compose Skilled Dia-
logue’s third component and the concrete expressions of its two dispositions.
Three strategies are associated with the disposition of Choosing Relationship
over Control:
Welcoming. The strategy of Welcoming involves using words and behaviors

that clearly communicate our recognition of the other person’s worth and
dignity, as well as our welcoming of the opportunity to interact with them.

Sense-Making. The strategy of Sense-Making focuses on trying to under-
stand another’s words and behaviors based on face-to-face interactions.
It involves eliciting the other person’s story, looking at the whole context,
and seeking to understand how his chosen words and behaviors make
sense within that context.

Joining. This strategy links differences once we have welcomed and made
sense of them. It reflects the recognition that all behavior is co-constructed,
that is, mutually created by our responses to their responses to our re-
sponses to their responses…and so on. It is through this strategy that we
acknowledge that a given problem is “our” problem not just “your” problem.

The strategies associated with Choosing Relationship over Control are
complemented by those associated with Setting the Stage for Miracles:
Allowing. The strategy of Allowing focuses on allowing diverse perspectives to

exist side-by-side without trying to change them. It complements Welcoming.
Appreciating. The strategy of Appreciating deepens reciprocity through recog-

nizing and communicating the value of another’s voice and the gifts it brings
to the situation at hand. Appreciating extends Sense-Making.

Harmonizing. The strategy of Harmonizing complements that of Joining. This
strategy focuses on learning how to bring diverse perspectives from contra-
diction into harmony. It specifically aims at the development of inclusive third
choices rather than exclusive forced choices where one person’s identity or
voice is silenced in favor of another’s.

These six strategies are Skilled Dialogue’s most visible aspect. Without the
underlying dispositions, however, they become only mechanical behavioral pre-
scriptions that honor solely our own identity and voice and, ultimately, discon-
nect rather than connect diverse perspectives. Thus, Part I has focused on the
dispositions. Part II will continue with more detailed attention to the strategies.

table 1: How Camilla might express Skilled Dialogue’s two dispositions

choosing Relationship over control
If Camilla was disposed to Choose Relationship over
Control in the case of Joey and his mother, she might
do the following:

1. Remind herself that she cannot correctly interpret
JoAnne’s behaviors until she gathers face-to-face expe-
riential information. For example, she cannot be sure that
it indicates resistance and lack of caring without getting
to know the experiential and cultural understandings that
shape what “changing” means to JoAnne. Does it mean a
rejection of who she believes herself to be? Or perhaps a
lack of security and increased sense of incompetence?

2. Listen and ask questions to get JoAnne’s interpretations
and understandings of the situation

3. Verbally affirm JoAnne’s competence as a learner and as
a mother (that is, tell her what she is doing well with Joey).

4. Choose intentionally to find a way to bring JoAnne’s
strengths into the picture rather than try to control her
through demands for change

5. Ask herself, “What can I learn from JoAnne?” (for ex-
ample, lessons related to making decisions under difficult
circumstances and/or about unconditional parenting)

6. Model the focused attention, patience, and curiosity
she wishes from JoAnne.

setting the stage for Miracles
If Camilla was disposed to Set the Stage for
Miracles in the case of Joey and his mother, she
might do the following:

1. Approach the situation with the understanding that
JoAnne’s behaviors stems from specific experiential
data and that, given that data, her choices reflect
competent problem-solving skills.

2. Choose to wait before giving solutions and trying to
change JoAnne’s behaviors, knowing that her (Ca-
milla’s) desire to change can coexist with JoAnne’s
insistence on not changing.

3. Verbally affirm JoAnne’s concerns and competence,
and state that she is interested in expanding that com-

4. Seek to gain insight into how JoAnne’s unconditional
affirmation of Joey’s current behavior might actually
help support desired change. For example, it might fos-
ter a sense of acceptance and fearlessness that would
make it easier for Joey to try new behaviors!

5. Tell JoAnne that while it seems that only two exclu-
sive choices are currently present, there is always a
third choice—and brainstorm with her to find that third

10 • Using Skilled Dialogue to Transform Challenging Interactions Using Skilled Dialogue to Transform Challenging Interactions • 11

Part II: Strategies and Implementation

W hat is your first response when a colleague or the parent of one of your students disagrees with you? What do you say or do when they clearly do not listen or, worse yet, listen but place little or no value on your words or views?
Do you believe that the goals you seek through these interactions can be
reached collaboratively and without struggle, even in these situations?

In the first part of this two-part article, readers were introduced to
Skilled Dialogue as one response to the challenges posed by conversations
and interactions with those who hold significantly different perspectives
and opinions. We described and illustrated Skilled Dialogue’s key qualities
(respect, reciprocity, and responsiveness) and key dispositions (Choosing
Relationship over Control and Setting the Stage for Miracles) (see Figure
1). In this article we will extend that initial information by providing more
detail on Skilled Dialogue’s six concrete strategies.

the SIx SkIlled dIalogue StrategIeS

The following discussion focuses on two strategies at a time according to
the quality—respect, reciprocity, or responsiveness—they are designed to
promote and support. Following that, a second discussion will review these
same pairs of strategies but in relation to a specific case, with examples of
what the strategies look and sound like.

WelcoMIng and alloWIng
These first two strategies focus on promoting and supporting the quality
of respect. Welcoming expresses the disposition of Choosing Relationship
over Control as it supports the development and maintenance of respect.
Welcoming goes beyond mere greeting and social niceties. It involves “gladly
receiving” another person to truly communicate “I’m glad for this opportu-
nity to chat with you; you are worth my time and attention.”

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for teachers to greet a parent and
then immediately move into their predetermined agenda (for example,
“Good morning, Mrs. Tate. As you know, we need to talk about Roland’s
recent behavioral issues”). This …

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