Facilitated difficult dialogues on racism: a goal-based approach

Srividya Ramasubramanian, Alexandra N. Sousa, Vanessa Gonlin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Racist incidents are moments that highlight the systemic racism that still exists within higher education. In 2016, the College of Liberal Arts at a historically White, Southern institution in the U.S. responded to a racist incident on campus by setting up a series of ‘Difficult Dialogue on Campus Race Relations’ sessions that gave participants the opportunity to reflect and respond to the incident. Drawing on literature about racial dialogues and social identity theory, the sessions were designed to promote active listening, build empathy, and provide practical tools to combat everyday racial microaggressions. We describe how communication design elements (such as small group settings, localized case studies, role-play, and ground rules) were tailored to fit the needs of various group settings and analyze participants’ feedback about the perceived impact of these dialogues. We present a goal-based dialogue framework as a model to facilitate difficult dialogues in a variety of applied communication contexts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)537-556
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Applied Communication Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 20 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Dialogue
  • communication design
  • diversity
  • race and racism
  • social identity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics


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