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Daniel Witthaus on Open Conversations

Daniel WitthausDaniel Witthaus is a gay rights advocate and education activist on a mission to eliminate homophobia. In 2002 he launched Pride & Prejudice, an educational program aimed at helping secondary school teachers challenge homophobia in their classrooms. Since then he’s launched the National Institute for Challenging Homophobia Education (NICHE), which supports lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) young people in rural and remote areas of Australia, to help prevent youth suicide and make the lives of all young people in these areas safer.

As part of our celebration of 300 episodes of the Great Work Podcast, I’m revisiting some key interviews from over the past few years. This one has always stood out for me, as it underscores how a simple conversation can change minds and behaviours.

Please share your favourite bit from this podcast for your chance to receive a gift from me. To participate in our 300th-episode celebration, either comment below or tweet me @BoxofCrayons with the hashtag #GWP300. Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be randomly selecting 10 participants and sending them a coupon for a free ebook version of The Coaching Habit.

In this interview from 2013, Daniel and I discuss:

  • The fact that people interact in similar ways across a variety of contexts.
  • How having a cup of tea can lead to more open conversations.
  • Why all conversations are important.
  • The need to build emotional safety in order to facilitate open conversations.
  • How to stay focused and self-manage emotions while leading group discussions.

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Interview Highlights

0:00:00: Daniel talks about his decision to focus on addressing homophobia in rural areas and places where there are communication gaps on the issue.

0:04:54: Daniel delves into how Pride and Prejudice was formed and why he wanted to take it to an “old boys’ Catholic” region. Michael and Daniel explore the “cuppa tea” approach to conversation – literally sitting down to talk over tea – which helps bring about open conversations and open minds. Daniel explains that every conversation is worth having, and that it will inevitably lead to the next. He also notes that people interact the same way from one group to the next because we’re all “human beings, flesh and blood.”

0:09:58: Daniel discusses his approach in leading Pride and Prejudice, explaining that he doesn’t start by lecturing students on homophobia. Instead, he builds emotional safety, which is essential to bring about open conversation.

0:15:05: Michael asks Daniel to explain how he builds emotional safety, and Daniel explains some of his techniques. He also outlines his approach to staying focused and managing his own emotions when facilitating conversations about sensitive matters.

0:20:16: Daniel touches on his hopes and plans for Pride and Prejudice, as well as other outreach programs. Michael wraps up by directing listeners to other resources on Daniel and his work.

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