Today’s Solutions: December 05, 2021

Recent events in the United States underscore a deep trend towards polarization that is spreading throughout the country. As current events bring up strong emotions, we have 11 tips for talking to someone you disagree with. Even if you don’t share the same opinion, these strategies can help you approach every conversation with respect and integrity and even perhaps reach a compromise. 

  1. Tell people they matter. Before launching into any talking points, it can be very helpful to reinforce to the other person that you value them and recognize their importance as a fellow human being. A simple, “before we begin I just want to tell you that I care about you and respect your perspective” will do. 
  2. Don’t let frustration get the best of you. When having a discussion with someone you disagree with, frustration can be one of the first emotions that come up. Rather than getting angry, channel this frustration into expressing your opinion in a collected and organized manner. If you can’t do this, it’s always okay to say, “I’m feeling frustrated, so I am going to take a moment to cool off before we continue.”
  3. Acknowledge underlying fears. So much of our interpersonal conflict is based on fear, so laying these uncertainties out on the table can be very beneficial. Acknowledge your own fears and ask the other person about theirs to better understand how these concerns influence your different points of view. This practice also helps build empathy between participants. 
  4. Don’t assume the worst. The vast majority of people are good and want unity, rather than division. Seek to understand their perspective and assume they have good intentions unless you have direct evidence to the contrary. 
  5. Share your sources. There’s a lot of misleading information floating around our world. Discuss not only your opinions but also the facts and sources that inform your opinions. 
  6. Use respectful language. Swearing, name-calling, blanket statements, and personal attacks will get you nowhere in a respectful discussion. Speak to your partner with kindness and professionalism no matter how upset you may be. 
  7. Show you understand (even if you don’t agree). You don’t have to agree to everything someone says, but you do have to make an effort to understand why they feel a certain way. Listen carefully and seek clarification on issues you are confused about. 
  8. Don’t defer to sarcasm. We frequently turn to sarcasm in an attempt to lighten the mood, but this can all too often be misconstrued or misunderstood. Try to avoid sarcasm in favor of language that doesn’t leave room for misinterpretation. 
  9. Don’t be condescending. Oftentimes we use condescending language in conversations as a tool for control, but this will only leave your partner feeling patronized. Instead, seek to understand your partner’s knowledge level on a topic before launching into an explanation about it.
  10. Teach and be taught. Ultimately, difficult conversations with people who do not share our opinions allow us to develop more empathy and find a compromise by sharing an understanding of the issue at hand. Be open to receiving novel information you may not know and share new facts with compassion.
  11. Thank them for their opinion. At the end of any conversation, no matter the outcome, thank your partner for the diverse perspective they brought to the table. Even if you still disagree, their words opened up your viewpoint and added nuance to your argument.
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