I am UIC: A guide to challenging people and accepting challenge

When you encounter a challenge, you must go about it with a perspective of, “I’m not better than you,” but with communicating, “You are better than this,” my friend explained to me.

A dialogue between a criminology major and a communications major tends to make for rather engaging conversations. Today I was sharing with my friend about the frustration I’ve been feeling toward the opinions being shared by my classmates. I have found that when I disagree with someone, it’s so hard for me to think clearly past my distaste for the thoughts they share. All of the sudden, the tone of voice they use, the cadence of their sentences, their demeanor begins to irk the deepest parts of my soul.

I don’t want to be listening to my class discussions through a filter, but I have found myself experiencing the dilemma of only paying attention to that which I want to hear.

“The greatest thing you want to do is understand the other person’s side of the story and to learn to work out those differences in a gentle, solution-oriented kind of way,” my friend explained.

“We need to learn how to be above petty and foolish conflict,” he continued, “in order to focus on what’s more important.”

I loved this. The reason I struggle to have conversations and participate in discussions is that I do not see from a solution-oriented perspective. There is a dynamic amongst our student population that breeds fear of being wrong. When there is an outlier who expresses another opinion, they become “isolated,” because we lack the empathy to identify with them.

“Diversity is eliminated in the name of diversity,” expressed Edwin Friedman in his book, “A Failure of Nerve.”

In order to be proudly and authentically diverse, I must be willing to face the uncomfortable sensation of disagreement and learn how to express my viewpoints with greater conviction.

“What you’re trying to do is have understanding, patience, and the willingness to educate while giving an opinion,” my friend concluded. “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry,” he recited.

I am excited to be more intentional about the way I engage in conversation in the classroom after this conversation. Going in (after also doing my readings for the class) ready to be empathetic and more ready to listen than to give a response based upon simple reactivity. Is this what learning and education was supposed to be in the first place?


Abigail Floresca is a junior majoring in criminology, law and justice with a minor in professional writing. Writing is how she connects, processes, expresses and relates to the rest of the world. Increasingly aware of the power of storytelling in bringing about change and reform, Abigail earnestly seeks to find a way to incorporate a perfect blend of writing and social work within the criminal justice system — she dreams of bringing about a positive change, one story at a time. At UIC, she is involved in campus ministry; conducts research with the criminology, law and justice department; interns with the Chicago Justice Project, and loves exploring new places downtown. 

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