Imagine for a moment this scenario. You want your new neighbor who you have never met to loan you his or her garden hose so you can water you lawn. You walk over to their house and bang on the door for them to open it right now. Once they open the door, you say, “I need to borrow your hose. If you don’t give it to me, then it just proves you’re a selfish, racist, narrow-minded SOB who only cares about themselves and not anyone else in the neighborhood! You don’t belong here and should move!”
How do you think your neighbor would react? Would they loan you their hose? Chances are they would probably say something in the vein of “Go to hell!” and slam the door. How would you feel if your neighbor spoke to you like that?
Now imagine this scenario #2. You walk over to your neighbor’s house with a tray of cookies. You ring the doorbell and they answer. You welcome them to the neighborhood and give them the cookies. You ask politely if you can borrow the hose and ask if you can help water their lawn as well.
How would the neighbor react in this scenario? It’s not a guarantee they would loan you the hose but they would certainly be more inclined to do so.
This might seem like a silly illustration. You may be think no normal person would act out the first scenario. Unfortunately, I feel like social media has created a firestorm of the first scenario. It is disheartening to read and hear people on all sides of a debate try to sway others with such antagonistic words. Anyone that disagrees with you is now an enemy. We live in a world full of ad hominem attacks. People are throwing around the words like “fear” and “hate.” Using the words in hyperbole is only diminishing their true meaning. My real fear is that we have forgotten how to have actual dialogue and genuinely care about people.
What happened to the idea of “treat others the way you would want to be treated?” Let’s also stop this “well, they started it first,” blame game as well. If our leaders aren’t setting the example, then we, the people, need to rise up and start bringing back a movement of love and civility.
I’m going to let you in on a secret. No two people will ever agree on everything 100% of the time. If that were the standard to liking others, none of us would have any friends left.
We don’t even have to apply this to politics. Whether in relationships, in family, at work, at school and in our daily lives, we express opinions and ideas that differ with those around us. If you truly want to convince people that your way is the better one or that your opinion should count, try a positive approach instead.
#1 Compliment the other person.
Someone is going to be more likely to hear what your have to say if you start with something positive. No one wants to be attacked and insulted. Affirm the other person when they say or do something you agree with.
#2 Find common ground
Instead of highlighting all the differences in your opinion with someone, try to find areas you both care about. The reason people are so passionate about their opinions is because they care. Tell people you appreciate that they care so much. Most people care about family, friends, having a good job, vacations and living a good life. In our daily lives, we share more in common with one another than we realize.
#3 Encourage someone who has changed their mind
If your whole goal is to try and change someone’s mind, then you need to believe they can do this. I feel like people aren’t given the room to change their mind when they are wrong. There’s this atmosphere of thinking once someone is wrong about something, they will always be wrong about something. Then when someone does change their mind or apologize, people don’t believe it is genuine or they are accused of flip-flopping.
I was once guilty of being skeptical about mental health issues and questioned the need to put so much money into addressing those issues. Then I had my own battle with depression and discovered many friends dealing with mental health challenges who couldn’t afford to pay for those services. I became much more educated about the complexity of mental health care and now I’m a huge proponent of mental health awareness. That was the main catalyst in starting this blog. If people judged me on my initial thoughts on mental health, then they would probably disqualify me from talking about it. However, what I say about mental health is more powerful because I had a change of heart.
# 4 Consider people’s feelings
One thing humans have in common is that we all have feelings. When you talk with someone you disagree with, think about how you would feel if they said the same thing to you. It seems obvious but sometimes we need this simple reminder. Better yet, ask someone how they are doing. Maybe they are going through a rough time or have a major event coming up. They may just need a listening ear at that moment and if you provide that, they are going to be more likely to listen to you.
Hating your so-called “enemies” will get you nowhere but loving them gives you a shot of actually making a difference. We all need to do our part to foster a better environment for healthy discussion and debate so we can create a better world today and for future generations.