Inviting others into non-polarizing conversations

The May 1st CMM Community Call featured the question “How to invite others into non-polarizing conversations about politics, religion, race and other contentious issues?” Eleven members of the CMM community participated in the call, with Arthur Jensen hosting.

Arthur said his motivation for asking the question stemmed from his experience of having difficulty engaging in conversation with friends and relatives who hold very different political views than his own. “The people I know are mostly either fervently pro-Trump or equally fervent in their opposition to Trump. Most conversations about politics these days are over before they start or just end up with people yelling at each other before ending up in uncomfortable silence.”

There was a strong consensus on the call that Arthur was not alone in his experience. Most participants acknowledged having similar kinds of conversations and finding them difficult to navigate, even given our collective commitment to trying to “coordinate across differences” with others. Among the strategies that were offered during the session was the idea of describing one’s feelings of frustration to the other, which often leads to at least some common ground (both parties being frustrated at their inability to talk about these kinds of issues). Connecting with others on an emotional level can help reframe the conversation, focusing on maintaining the relationship even as they disagree about issues.

Another CMM-based strategy was to champion curiosity, especially during difficult conversations. This involves showing interest in understanding the other’s perspective or specific views while remaining firm bit not confrontational about one’s own views. After listening to the other offer reasons or motivations for their views, one can simply say “that hasn’t been my experience” rather than initiating a direct rebuttal of the other’s perspective. Instead one can thank the other for being willing to share with someone who disagrees.

The call did not result in any breakthrough strategies, but left the host feeling that there was strong support for continuing to think about more effective ways to have very important conversations about the issues of our day.



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