As I change some of my volunteer activities, I’m setting myself up to spend more time talking to people who disagree with me. This can be healthy, but it’s also a challenge. I’ve been thinking about specific behaviors I want to keep in mind while I have those conversations. What’s missing? What’s wrong? How different would our world be if everyone approached discussions with this mindset?
- Ask lots of questions. If someone’s argument seems absurd, I probably don’t understand what they’re trying to say or what led them to this viewpoint. Asking questions helps us walk back to common ground to find where we diverge so we can have a productive discussion.
- Assume that everyone is logical, rational, and fact-driven even when they have a completely opposite viewpoint. It might not always be true, but it’s a healthy place to start.
- Rhetoric is a red flag. If someone is using name calling or inflammatory language in their argument, resist the urge to join in or fight back. Call out the rhetoric and ask questions about the root issues.
- Don’t use metaphors and similes to make a point. If someone disagrees with me, they’re going to pick apart my comparison instead of focusing on the point I’m trying to make. Facts and data are a much stronger argument.
- Always be willing to change my mind when presented with enough evidence. Don’t engage with people who are unwilling to do the same.
- When presented with evidence, don’t trust secondary sources that don’t link to the original material. (I’m very happy to see that Elijah is already learning this in school.) Related to this, use a neutral news source, but also pull content on a topic from multiple sources on both sides of the issue to understand where there is disagreement.
I fall flat on these very often, especially when the person I’m talking to is emotional and not following a similar approach, but maybe writing these things down will help me keep them in mind more often.