Courtesy of David Olson

Don't ask someone unless you're ready to really hear them out.

By Ellen McGirt
September 11, 2017

Fortune’s Include U Challenge for September 11:

Today, ask someone whose views you don’t understand or with whom you’ve been in conflict: What do you need?

Instructor: David Kyuman Kim, a professor

In one of raceAhead’s earliest interviews, David Kyuman Kim, a professor of religious studies and American studies at Connecticut College, shared some important advice.

“We have a responsibility to draw our attention to co-workers, to community members and ask a simple question – ‘how are you doing?’” he says. “And then listen, really listen, as if you don’t already know the answer.”

We were talking about the gunman attack at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, the deadliest shooting event targeting LGBT people in U.S. history, and how some employees might be feeling the next day – frightened, vulnerable, targeted, or unsure of how to help. How should leaders respond?

These are the moments that require a profound humility, he said. By giving genuine attention to the differences between us, people find the courage to talk about their lives.

I reminded Kim of this conversation, and the impact it had on Fortune readers, when we talked about his contribution to Include U. In many ways, he’s suggested the next logical question for today’s challenge. “Listening to learn and understand can help us develop a deep and empathetic curiosity,” says Kim. But, asking someone what they need, has a different moral weight. “What flows from it is a promise of help, and that implies an accountability.”

When directed toward people with whom you have a difficult or uncertain relationship, this implied accountability moves the conversation from one of “inclusion performance,” to one of true personal presence.

“I ask my students all the time,” ‘What would it take for us to be known as a love-driven generation?’” he says. In addition to many of his academic pursuits, Kim is the co-founder of Love Driven Politics, a collective of academics, artists, spiritual leaders and others, who are working together to explore loving and humane responses to the anger, divisiveness, and cynicism in American political life.

Being part of a love-driven generation is bigger than personal reputation, or the stories people will ultimately tell about your individual propensity for love, forgiveness, and mercy. “What would it take for all of us to be remembered as a society that focused on the needs of others?” he asks. He tends to answer his own question. “It’s small steps and small gestures,” he says.

Listen to the Love Driven Politics podcast

Read Kim’s response to the rise of hate crimes in the U.S.

Watch Kim’s TEDx talk on “radical love” at Connecticut College

Follow David Kyuman Kim or Love Driven Politics on Twitter.

For today’s challenge, David Kyuman Kim wants you to ask someone whose views you don’t understand or with whom you’ve been in conflict, a simple question: What do you need?

Post your thoughts on today’s challenge on Twitter with #IncludeU30.

Looking for all the challenges? Start here.

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