November 11, 2016

If You Want to Change Minds, You’re Probably Doing it Wrong

If you are anything like me, you are probably very fatigued with the post-election hysteria. Many times since Donald Trump assumed the presidency, I have been very tempted to just shut down my computer and go for a hike in Nature.


The problem is that we have forgotten how to talk to each other. I’ve personally felt this frustration. My friends know I love to debate, and when I do, I make an effort to see things from all sides. Over the past few years, especially since the onset of Facebook, I have found the things I value, such as hard, scientific evidence or rationally argued points, are increasingly ineffective in making my case. Emotion and passion rule the day, and discussions often quickly dissolve into name-calling and projection. The first part of getting through this, is acknowledging the vast distance between the opposing sides of liberals vs. conservatives

Duh, Sean, we all knew that, whatever.

But here’s the thing, it doesn’t have to be that way. Instead of retreating to our personal echo chambers and howling about how terrible “those” people are, we must sometimes step outside ourselves and consider why the “others” feel the way they do. It’s about respect.

In order for you to have a meaningful, productive discussion with someone, you must first respect them. Sure, it’s easy to point to the behavior of some mob of angry rioters and opine about how they are the epitome of what is wrong with society, or liberalism, or what-have-you. The only thing that does is tell the people you disagree with, that you are not willing to consider anything they have to say on the matter. You’ve effectively shut them out of the conversation.

So, what happens? They shout at you, you yell back at them, names are called, mud gets slung and pretty soon it’s a blood bath. It’s stupid, it’s counterproductive and never once has swayed anybody’s opinion about anything.

Professor Robb Willer, of Stanford University actually studies this stuff, and he’s got something to say about it. His research has identified the gulf between liberal and conservative ideologies. While studying how people talk AT each other, he has come up with what might be the answer to get people talking TO one another.

Check out his TEDx talk below.

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