How Do We Talk With One Another?

I keep reading FB posts from folks who are sick of all the politics on FB. Just get over it, they say. The election is over. They are correct. The election is over. However, the art of governing goes on. I’ve seen posts I don’t like and I just hide them. I’ve not unfriended anyone, because over and above their thoughts on politics and elections, they are good people. We just see the world differently. Hard to remember sometimes. Bottom line, democracy is messy. MP900341744

So how do we move past this impasse, where even Facts are questioned and Truth? Truth appears to be in the eye of the beholder.

My newspaper ran a guest editorial in Wednesday’s paper and the author, Chris Satullo, a former columnist and editor for the Philadelphia Inquirer made suggestions for talking with people we disagree with. I’m sharing some of his comments below, but I’ve included the link below to his entire commentary.

http://www.star-telegram.com/opinion/opn-columns-blogs/other-voices/article129834869.html

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As co-founder of the Penn Project for Civic Engagement, I’ve spent 20-plus years seeking to help people talk about things that matter, in ways that lead to solutions, not gridlock, to flashes of understanding, not thunderous rancor.

We Americans are in a tough spot, reluctant seat-mates in a leaky boat. We probe scars from a brutal election, suffer a plague of fake news, indulge bad habits on social media.

Even proven techniques of civil dialogue may falter in this toxic environment, I fear. Still, for what it’s worth, let me offer five road-tested tips on how to talk fruitfully with someone who voted the other way on Nov. 8.

Don’t seek to convert or win. Seek to understand.

The merchants of division don’t want you to grasp this, but millions who voted for the other team are nice, solid, ethical people whom you’d feel fine about having next door or at the next desk.

If you can leave a conversation with a better sense of why such a person voted in a way that pains you, that’s a real win.

It’s a win for you, for the other person (who probably needs to learn the same thing) and for the odds of saving this democracy.

Consider this pragmatic point: If you ever hope some day to convert a “wrong” voter to your views, best to begin with an olive branch, not a bludgeon. Name calling is not moral courage; it’s name calling.

 

Start with story, not with positions, arguments or labels.

Tell me a bit about yourself is a more productive opening bid than: How could you vote for someone who is out to ruin America?

Perhaps ask a specific question in the vein of “Tell me about a time when …” or “Tell me a story that sums up for you why you believe X.”

Frame questions as invitations, not confrontations.

The goal here is not to skirt problematic issues. But the way you put such a topic on the table can make all the difference.

It’s one thing to say, “How could you vote for such a racist?” It’s another thing to say, “Just personally, I found what X did about Y kind of troubling.

How did you react to that and think your way through it?

Statue of Liberty

Avoid “fact wars.”

I’m a journalist. The notion that facts matter is core for me. But I know just telling people they’re wrong, then flinging facts in their faces does not move opinion.

Brandished this way, facts bounce off mental frames, leading people to cling ever more fiercely to their own “facts.” In the era of digital bubbles, this sadly grows more true.

What I’m about to suggest won’t work with truly locked-down minds. But it might help if a person is even slightly open to new information.

Try: “I’m not sure that fact you’re citing is really true, but put that aside for now. Here’s what I’d love for you to talk about: Why this assertion is so crucial to you.”

Then ask: “If I could show you solid evidence this isn’t a fact, can you imagine that changing your thinking at all?”

Admit doubt.  

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First, to yourself. Second, to the other person.

Only the purely partisan maintain that fact, logic, merit and virtue attach only to their team.

My Penn colleague Harris Sokoloff often urges warring parties to mull these paired questions: “Is there any part of the other side’s position, no matter how small, that makes sense to you?” and “Is there any part of your own position that bothers you even a little, that’s a pebble in your shoe?”

That’s it. Five tips for talking with the other team.

I understand they won’t work with everyone. The world, alas, has its stone-headed partisans and bigots.

But the ranks of those who voted the other way Nov. 8 include millions who aren’t hopeless. Talk with them.

Chris Satullo is a former columnist and editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer’s editorial page. centersquarephl@gmail.com

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So, what do you think? Do you think any of his suggestions will work? Have you tried any of these yourself? I try not to be “political” here and on my FB page, especially not on Author page, but I write about what’s going on in my world on this blog. And I can’t ignore the ever-present strife and discord. Love to hear from you.

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5 responses to “How Do We Talk With One Another?

    • Hey, Kate. Glad you liked it. I don’t profess to have these skills down, but it’s good to know what I need to work on. Thanks for re-blogging and I’m so glad you’re blogging again. Earlier today read your Gratitude Post. Maybe that needs to be something we do several times a year. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by.

      Like

  1. Excellent article.
    I live in a very liberal area, and most of the people I know are appalled at what is going on. Many are protesting and taking action. But Hubs and I believe it’s more important to be “for” something than against. We need to have a positive goal. Civil discourse helps this; ranting doesn’t.
    I’m reblogging this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You go it, Kate. Being positive is so much better than being negative all the time. We’re all in this together and have to find a way to speak with each other rather than just yelling. Though sometimes yelling feels pretty good. LOL Just kidding. 🙂

      Like

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