4 tips for Communicating With People You Disagree With
Updated: Aug 5
As time goes on, humanity typically evolves, but somehow with all of the channels of social media, technology and digital communication we have devolved. It’s time to have an uncomfortable discussion on how to re-learn the concept of communication with your fellow man and woman. I want to call this a lesson in De-polarizing and De-programming.
1. Understand and embrace your imperfections and emotions
Let’s start here… we are imperfect, we don’t always say the right thing, and we don’t always know how to not be offensive. I encourage you to let your guard down and accept your differences leading into a conversation. With that said, I understand that is incredibly difficult.
So here is where we keep going wrong. We aren’t having conversations correctly, as we are missing a key concept. Right now, emotions are running high and people keep trying to fight emotion with logical statements. Emotion DOES NOT respond to Logic. Period. The best response to emotion is empathy. Genuine empathy must be the first response any time you are having a conversation in this day and age. Listen, understand and meet tough conversations with love. Anything you say that counters someone that has a different and passionate opinion will inevitably shut down the ability to relate to the person you are talking about. Reactionary responses loaded with why the other person is wrong will lead to a complete shut-down of communication.
2. Be less eager to tell people they are wrong
We need to stop trying to convince people they are wrong. That’s what got us here, and here ain’t working. If you have a challenging conversation with someone and you convince them to change their opinion, great, but in the end that shouldn’t be the goal. When communicating with someone with different ideas than you, your goal should be to understand their opinion and compassionately share your own. We are currently in a world where it seems like we are 20% alike in beliefs and 80% different when we really are the reverse. If we achieve symbiotic open minded communication, we will see and feel that again. When you are able to have an uncomfortable conversation successfully, you will end up somewhere near the middle.
3. Allow time and space after hearing ideas before contesting them
Once you have incorporated empathy, give it some time. Don’t just say, “Oh my gosh, that’s terrible. But really though…” because it shows you were giving fake empathy. You’ll feel it, you’ll know when the time is right, just know it’s not immediate. At that point, you can say something like, “I know I can’t put myself in your shoes, but I hope you can just hear why I feel differently” and then you bring up your argument. Then you can explain your point and be very clear that you aren’t trying to disagree, you are just trying to explain where you are coming from. The person you are having a discussion with may not be receptive, but they are at least hearing you. They may not hear you in the moment, but they will be listening to you if you’ve been genuine and empathetic.
4. Know when to speak out, and know when to listen
If you are at a point in your life where you aren’t able to listen to other ideas, don’t try and engage because you’ll lose friends, sanity and you’ll hurt people around you. I want to be clear, I’m not a fan of having to walk on eggshells, but the world has changed, humanity has changed. In order to make the world a better place, you have to be the change you wish to see in the world around you and the world as a whole. Be a part of the solution. That solution is daunting, but it is possible.
I’ve changed. I’ve learned that I don’t always say the right things, and I still don’t. I’ve gotten better though, and I continue to get better every day.
Please, just try and have an open mind. Be willing to listen, learn and improve yourself. Part of being the change is changing yourself from the inside out. You can, you will, you must.
I want to give a special thanks to my good friend Melissa Agnes, the crisis guru who collaborated with me to develop this lesson. Learn more about social media crisis management by visiting her page.
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