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Oops. Ouch. Whoa.

Photo: Thomas Barwick/Getty Images

When I’m catching up with an old friend, or ranting to a work buddy, I don’t think much about conversational structure. But some conversations aren’t so easy. In those tougher discussions, it can help to lay out some rules ahead of time, as awkward as that might feel at first.

One tool that I’ve found immensely helpful for navigating difficult conversations comes out of community activism. I learned it in a parenting and racial equity workshop, and it’s called Oops, Ouch, Whoa. Here’s how it works:


Don’t just talk to each other. Talk about how you talk to each other.

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Imagine this interaction between a couple, Tim and Maya.

Tim says: “Hey, the window’s open.”

“Get up and shut it yourself,” Maya replies.

Whoa. Hold up. What happened here?

Maybe Tim did want Maya to close the window, and this was his way of telling her that. Or maybe he was simply observing that the window was open, but Maya responded so quickly to the first possibility that she didn’t have time to consider the second. Now they’re both upset. For days they’ve been snapping at each other, their irritation set off by one instance of potentially crossed wires.

How…


Avoid creating emotional labor for the person you’re trying to help

Photo: Thomas Barwick/Getty Images

Your co-worker is struggling, and you want to do something to support them. You fire up your workplace’s internal chat. “Just checking in!” you write. “Do you want to talk about it? What can I do?”

Before you award yourself the Nobel Peace Prize, take a step back.

Over the past month and a half, as millions took to the streets to express grief and pain following the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota, Black people in workplaces around the country were bombarded with awkward inquiries from non-Black colleagues about how they were “holding up,” whether they were “okay,” and…


It’s being really bad at handling rejection

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Like a lot of men, I have a long track record of sucking at rejection. Whenever someone said no to me, it was always THEIR fault that they didn’t see the best in me. I was great. They were foolish.

Back in the late ’90s, I spent a summer as a table runner at a restaurant in Western Connecticut to make beer money for college. I was, charitably speaking, an underwhelming employee. I took a lot of bathroom breaks to avoid the dish pile. I was too loud in the kitchen. I wore the same black pants and white shirt…


As Forge turns one, we look back at the stories that helped us make sense of the last 12 months — and provide a blueprint for your future

Photo: Pradeep Kumar/EyeEm/Getty Images

One year ago, we introduced our new publication, and characterized its world like this:

“Self help” has come a long way, and in its current iteration we talk more about progress, bravery, and mindfulness; doing more, and being more creative. The field has become less gendered, more universal and global, and a whole lot more interesting than it once was.

Here at Forge, we’re all obsessed with the individual’s engagement with the world. What we didn’t know in June 2019 was how crucial that engagement would become. The pandemic, the ongoing fight against racial injustice, and the financial crisis are…


Feeling socially connected is a need all of us share, but human interaction isn’t the only way to get it

Photo: Bettina Mare Images/Getty Images

There was a point, midway through quarantine, where I started to wonder if I was made for it.

I’m used to alone time in abundance — I spent seven years living on my own. And I know firsthand that loneliness and being alone are two different things, and that the presence or absence of other people isn’t necessarily tied to the emotional state. Still, as the time in lockdown stretched on, I braced myself for the wave of loneliness to hit.

Strangely, it never did. I’m not saying I’ve been enjoying this time — I’d do some terrible things for…


Who We’ll Be After This

What happened when I looked outside of my noisy head

Photo illustration. Sources: Oliver Rossi/Getty Images, Westend61/Getty Images, Brigitte Sporrer/Getty Images

On a recent walk around the block, I saw my neighbor, Ted, coming the other way.

Ted and I are friendly, but don’t know each other that well. I threw out a “Hey buddy!” but didn’t break stride. While he’s usually good for a smile and a wave, all I got in return were raised eyebrows and a lukewarm head nod.

In my pre-quarantine days, I would have thought, “Well, Ted’s being a bit of a crab today,” and maintained my brisk 21-minute-per-mile pace. But these are not normal times, so I crossed the street and stopped six feet short.


There’s a more empowering way to opt out

Photo: Mark Edward Atkinson/Getty Images

Bailing on plans used to be weirdly fun, like playing hooky with one’s social life. It could even feel like a rebellion against the relentless pace of modern life. But suddenly, there are no more opportunities for the thrill of bailing. If 2019 was pronounced “a veritable age of cancellation,” the period truly deserving of that title is upon us now: Covid-19 has abruptly canceled all our plans for us.

This clearing of our calendars has primed Americans for alternative ways of connecting. Without any social plans to bail on, we’re in an unprecedented era of people showing up. Recently…


Sexual harm reduction strategies work for social distancing, too

Photo: NurPhoto/Getty Images

Across the United States, we’ve been in some form of shutdown or social distancing for at least half of 2020.

With most states starting to reopen — some in phases, and some more quickly — it can be easy to forget that the pandemic isn’t over. Many places are already seeing new spikes in cases as precautions relax. Experts are warning of a potentially devastating second wave in the fall. Protestors are flooding the streets to do the essential work of standing up to police brutality and the white supremacy this country was built on.

All of this means that…


Before you talk to your kids about race, answer this question

Photo: loriklaszlo/Deposit Photos

I’m a black woman who talks about race. So, in the past few days, I have received many requests from white people — all women — for resources on how to talk to their white children about race.

I appreciate the sincerity of the request—and I’m also looking hard at fathers who have not asked the same—but my response is more complex than “Here’s a book to read!” I want them to answer this question first: “Mom, why don’t you have any black friends?”

Our nation is still, in many ways, racially segregated. If you are like many white Americans…

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