How does a black musician who’s jammed with the likes of Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, BB King and even Bill Clinton – become friends with an Imperial Wizard from the Ku Klux Klan?
In this polarised world, breaking down entrenched positions may be the most important skill needed by us all. If two passionate sides can agree to disagree, long enough to find what they have in common – could we overcome climate change, poverty and even racism?
My guest on this episode of Inside Influence podcast would say a resounding yes.
On today’s Inside Influence Podcast episode I talk to R&B musician and Race Reconciliator Daryl Davis about talking to the “other”.
Growing up overseas as the son of diplomats, he returned to the US as a 10-year-old and was shocked to discover that people could hate him because of the colour of his skin. Later that year he saw MLK assassinated.
This formed a question that went on to define the course of his life: “‘How can you hate me if you don’t even know me?”
Through music he discovered a beautiful universal language and had a wonderful career playing the piano for some of the greats such as Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis.
One night while playing in a bar in Frederick Maryland, he met a Ku Klux Klan member and decided the best way to find an answer to his question was to attend their rallies.
Rather than a debate, he was looking to have a conversation. Rather than trying to convince or convert, he decided to approach people with curiosity and respect.
Over the past 30 years, Daryl Davis has inspired 200+ people to quit the Ku Klux Klan. Through dialogue and (as you’ll come to hear) a thirst to first understand before being understood.
Today’s Guest Daryl Davis
Daryl Davis is an award-winning R&B piano player, actor, author, and race relations expert.
He has worked with Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley’s Jordanaires, The Legendary Blues Band and many others. He currently tours with The Daryl Davis Band. He is also an actor and appeared on HBO’s critically acclaimed series The Wire.
As a Race Reconciliator, he has been sent around the world by the State Department to talk about conflict reconciliation and race relations. He has won numerous awards and has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, NPR and other media outlets to talk about race relations.
He hosts a podcast called Changing Minds and has written a book on his relationships with Klu Klux Klan members called “Klan-destine Relationships”
“One person can make an exponential change because when they impact another, that person then goes on to impact another.”
“You cannot change someone’s reality, they have to change it themselves.”
“You have to invite the other to participate and when you see that happen collectively, that is when huge things happen.”
- His journey from that bar in Maryland to immersing himself in the world of the KKK – what he learned, how he has learned to respond and what that has to teach us about having deeply difficult conversations.
- Why he is NEVER offended by what he hears in those conversations – this one intrigued me the most – including how he stays in a place of active respect and curiosity – in situations that would bring most people’s blood to the boil.
- Why he always start with ‘commonality’ – and he uses some beautiful language here – essentially beginning any difficult conversation with what he has in common with the other person, before moving to what he has in contrast.
- Why change never happens in the moment, I think this one is worth hearing a few times – we will never change someone’s mind in the moment. The intention instead is to invite them to an exploration (NOT A DEBATE) – and then respectfully sow seeds that they can reflect on later.
- Why self awareness and courage are muscles we all have – and only by strengthening and using those muscles – can we inspire others to start doing the same. Parents and leaders, this one is on us.
- As someone who considers himself to be ‘just a rock and roll player’ how Daryl has managed to achieve what many movements have not – by first deciding to listen.
- And finally, Daryl’s own personal roadmap to having deeply difficult conversations. A game changing tool for any conversation or situation where the emotions and stakes are at their most intense.
References and links mentioned
- The Charlotteville “Unite the Right” Rally.
- My new ebook The Influencer Code.
- The Mark Twain quote was from The Innocents Abroad / Roughing It.
- Daryl’s book Klan-destine Relationships
If you liked this episode, you might also enjoy
- Bob Chapman – Truly human leadership: What it means to lead like everybody matters
- Hamish Thomson – Why it’s not always right to be right
- Judy Atkinson – 4 Keys to Transform Conflict with Deep Listening
- Jonah Berger – How to change anyone’s mind without having to push
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