Sophie Beren is a unifier from Wichita, Kansas. She is the Founder and CEO of The Conversationalist, the go-to destination to amplify Gen Z voices.
Here is what Sophie had to say when we asked her about using your voice:
GenHERation®: What is The Conversationalist and what was the inspiration behind it?
Sophie Beren: The Conversationalist was born out of an experience I had at the University of Pennsylvania. I was on campus during the 2016 election and the campus felt very heated. I facilitated an event on campus with every political group on campus to discuss what brings our generation to the polls and why we vote. It was the first time ever that people on our campus were having conversations from those different points of view. After the election, campus was shut down. During a finance class, a professor lectured us on how we should have voted and I couldn’t take it anymore. I left class, put pen to paper, and for the first time, really used my voice to talk about why this mattered to me, why it bothered me, and what the solution was, and it ended up being published in The Huffington Post. I called my entire generation in to start breaking those echo chambers by engaging with people outside of our beliefs and experiences. That was the spark behind The Conversationalist. Today, The Conversationalist is the go-to destination for Gen Z. We are a global community platform that is on a mission to break up 1 million echo chambers by 2025. We empower the next generation to have conversations through multiple points of view through our online community platform, on the Geneva app, and our weekly Gen Z talk show, “POVz,” where we talk to young people about a hot-button issue from multiple points of view.
GenHERation®: How do you recommend having conversations with others when the content is more controversial?
Beren: I think it depends on the person, the place, and the time. Before having any conversation, try to think about why you’re having it. Is it spur of the moment? Is it something that’s been building up inside of you for a long time? Once you understand why you want to have a conversation, ask yourself what you want to get out of it. Intention setting is super important before having a dialogue so you can weigh your own expectations and be up front with the person on what you’re wanting to get out of the conversation. Sometimes we mistake conversation for debate or trying to change someone’s mind. When in doubt, try to default to speaking from personal experience. I think we all sometimes feel this expectation to know everything and know it all, but that’s just not true. You can never be an expert in everything, but we can be an expert in our own experiences. Use “I” statements, speak from your own lived background and experiences, and set the expectations in such a way that you know what you want to get out of it.
GenHERation®: What are three ways you can stay informed on what is happening in the world?
Beren: First and foremost, The Conversationalist community. On our app, we have a room called “Headlines”and every time there’s breaking news, there is someone from our community sharing news on our platform. Second, I find out a lot of my news on social media. I’m typically scrolling through my TikTok “For You” page, the trending section on my Twitter, and constantly trying to see what other people are talking about. Finally, every day I try to do a news sweep of my own and go to a couple different platforms and sources to see different viewpoints. A great platform to do that is AllSites.com, which showcases what’s happening in the world, but it gives you an array of headlines and shows you where the media bias is in each of those headlines.
GenHERation®: How can you make sure your voice is heard, whether it is in the classroom, on the sports field, or in the workplace?
Beren: It depends on why you want to have your voice heard. Every single person has a voice and that voice matters. I don’t think that means saying whatever you want whenever you’re feeling it. I would know how you want to make your voice heard and why you want to be heard. A lot of that has to do with self-reflection. I would start by having some hard conversations with yourself before you want to be heard by others. This looks like trying to figure out what your convictions are. We often only believe what we believe because someone has told us to believe in those things. Start questioning those beliefs and ask yourself where these ideas come from and to what extent you have these beliefs because of your environment. This can be through journaling, talking in front of a mirror, or meditating in bed when you go to sleep. Once you establish your inner voice it’s far easier to have your outer voice be heard.
GenHERation®: What advice do you have for being your authentic self?
Beren: I think this is something that I struggle with, growing up with social media and being a digital native. I’ve always felt a need to curate who I am for the purpose of others consuming information about who I am. In order to be your most authentic self, you have to know who you are. For me, this came with a lot of self-reflection and working with a brand coach to better understand who I am as a person, what value I want to bring to the world, and who I am outside of what I do. A lot of that inner rambling helped me figure out who I am and who I am not, so I am better armed with a shield around me to weed out criticism. Also, surround yourself with people who know you and love you for your authentic self. We easily get caught up in what others think, so it’s important to surround yourself with people who know and love you to help you stay grounded and not lose sight of who you are.
GenHERation®: How can you use social media in a positive way?
Beren: I think we need to define positive. At the end of the day it all goes back to intention. Why are you using social media? What good do you want to create online? I personally have felt a lot of pressure to use social media platforms to advocate for certain issues, which is wonderful; however, I don’t think everyone in the world needs to do something just to do it. I would ask yourself what change do you want to see in the world, what influence do you want to have on the people around you, and how can you utilize the voice you have to make a difference in the way that you see fit? There are so many different lanes to so many different movements and we don’t all have to stay in the same one. If you don’t know, do some research by breaking open your social media echo chamber. By circumstance, we’re brought up in communities of people who look like us and think like us. We can get stuck in those silos on social media as well by following people who are like us and have the same beliefs as us. To break that echo chamber, follow five to 10 accounts a month that represent a different lived experience outside of your own. You can slowly take back your newsfeed and expose yourself to different opinions, experiences, and people.
GenHERation®: What is most important to remember if you want to start your own business?
Beren: If you’re starting anything, it needs to align with what you believe in and who you are as a person. For Generation Z and for 21st century branding overall, the most successful entrepreneurs are those who match their ventures to who they are as people. I’m a unifier, so I know through and through that unity is what I bring to the world. I’m constantly trying to bring people together, foster conversations, and bring humankind a little closer together. Everything I do with The Conversationalist has to do with the concept of unifying. Since I matched the business to who I am as an individual, my platform is as authentic as it can be. If you’re starting a business, make sure that you have a strong reason for why you’re starting it that connects back to who you are.
Sophie Beren is a unifier from Wichita, Kansas. She is the Founder and CEO of The Conversationalist, the go-to destination to amplify Gen Z voices. The Conversationalist community platform and Gen Z talk show “POVz” empower young people everywhere to have conversations that matter. Sophie was recently named “25 Under 25” by Social Entrepreneur’s Magazine and “21 Women Entrepreneurs to Watch in 2021.” Her social impact journey began at the University of Pennsylvania where she received her Bachelor’s Degree in Communications and her Master’s Degree in Nonprofit Leadership. Sophie is dedicated to breaking open echo chambers and unifying the world, one conversation at a time.