Social Change & Activism discussion

how to talk to people with different views?

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message 1: by Ganesh (new)

Ganesh | 3 comments I'm looking for a guide to having conversations with people with very different values and political views.

How do you find common ground? How do you truly listen to their opinions?

How do you show respect for their opinions and, at the same time, inspire them to question their assumptions and consider the validity of your arguments?

How do convey your enthusiasm for a cause and inspire someone to take action?

How do you use humor? How do avoid being preachy? How do you empower another person?

Please recommend websites or books. I'm especially interested in tips that can be applied to environmental activism and conversations about changing consumer habits.

I'd also be interested in reading about people's organizing experiences -- positive experiences and lessons learned.

Thank you!

message 2: by Martyg (new)

Martyg | 1 comments The Ute Reader had a very short article several years ago titled:
" Tell it Like it Is - How to have an honest discussion when you don't agree". It was by Julie Ristau. It had several good suggestions. Sorry I don't have the year/date of the article.

message 3: by Salma (new)

Salma It's from 2003.
Here's the link:

Thanks for the heads up!

message 4: by Jason (new)

Jason The Utne reader also had another article just a few months ago on just this topic. It was a little more urgent than the 2003 article and it's called "The Great Divide: How do we talk when we disagree"

message 5: by Jason (last edited Jan 14, 2008 09:35AM) (new)

Jason personally, I think its a really a problem. It seems, in the US at least, ever since Bush took office our coutnry has become increasingly polarized and unable to articulate their beliefs in a thoughtful way. For example it was only under Bush taht I've heard people say, "I don't talk about politics or religion in public."

What's so wrong with that? That's the foundation of democracy. If you can't talk about things like poltiics how in the heck are people supposed to gauge their own ideas? How are they supposed to gauge the ideas of others? How are people supposed to come together behind a movement or cause that helps people when you can't even talk about the ideas behind it? That's part of what democracy is all about, in my opinion.

Whether that is particularly Bush's fault, I don't really know. I just know that's my perception of these times.

Maybe someone else has a different opinion? I'd be interested.

message 6: by Salma (new)

Salma I think a lot of people don't discuss politics or religion in public because a) Political correctness has gotten way out of hand, and we all have this 'fear of offending' instilled into us. Hell, I consider myself a pretty direct and straighforward person, and even I find myself clearing my throat before saying something involving race, gender, sexuality, etc., and b) It's just way too exhausting. I mean, are you actually going to get the other person to see your view? Probably not, and when this happens to me, I just feel like I've gone in circles, and need an Advil.

I do detest Bush (oh, lord, do I ever detest Bush). But I think the political correctness thing started way back in the seventies- it was a process that culminated in the millenium as 'let's all be afraid of each other.'

message 7: by Dan (new)

Dan The best way, I think, to talk to people is to understand what your basic values are and to understand the basic values of the person you're talking to (given the group, that means understanding your progressive values and understanding the others conservative values) And here's my book rec: Thinking Points by George Lakoff and the Rockridge Institute. If you want to be empowered to say what you believe, I can't recommend this book, or Lakoff and his think tank, highly enough.

message 8: by Monique (new)

Monique | 1 comments Hello Tien, thanks for your questions which are basic ones in a society.

My very modest reply ? : Don't talk that much, unless you be physically far away from the people you want to communicate with. Just be a withnes of your views and values. Just be an alive example of what you suggest. ACTING IS SHOWING THE WORLD WHO YOU ARE AND HOW YOU THINK : that's enough as an explanation, no need of preaching.
Doing so, you will interest, attract and maybe convince the people... Acts are more powerfull than words... Good luck and take heart, because you will need !

message 9: by Clare (new)

Clare | 6 comments At the ripe old age of 61 I have found that it is pretty difficult to change anyone's entrenched views around certain subjects such as religion and politics. I always think long and hard before I get into a discussion like that. I ask myself what I am trying to accomplish? Do I just want to espouse my views or am I trying to make that person think the way I do? What are the likely results of entering into such a dialogue?

Regarding environmental issues and consumer habits, I think that's an interesting topic. I hate it when vegans criticize my leather pocketbook (which I may have purchased 25 years ago when I didn't even know the term "vegan") but I am open to hearing about ways to honor our earth and its creatures. I am pretty much a vegetarian now myself but refuse to throw away everything I own that is leather. I did get rid of a fur coat.

So much of conversation depends upon the way it is presented. I always thought of burquas (did I spell that right? I am referring to the long garments worn my women in some mideastern cultures) were garments forced upon women by a mysogynistic culture. I believed wearing one must be a terrible hardship. Then I heard a midestern woman talking on TV about how for her wearing such a garment felt like protection and that it symbolized the value put on women in her culture. I am sure glad I can wear pretty much what I want in the US but I understood a little more about the subject than I did before. I'm not entirely convinced that the woman was right in her views but it opened my mind up a little.

Listening is key. Sometimes we are so intent on defending our own point of view that we don't hear another's words. I truly believe if we listen we can understand. Understanding is not agreement but it can lead to respect for another's position.

It is very easy to believe that our way is the only way but by considering the views of others, we can have a much richer experience of the world.

message 10: by Ganesh (new)

Ganesh | 3 comments Thanks, everyone, for your insightful comments and article and book suggestions.

message 11: by David (new)

David | 8 comments hi there Claire David form Dundee Scotland here here i can understand toy fist part of your post so fact that is what is happening to me now..i have been forced to go on a job-creation scheme at 59. years of age ..??.. again there is nothing wronger in looking for work.. !!!
if it is there my city,.. has a high unemployment rate ..with Harley no investment,, just like other areas in the states... all we are doing in making statics's look good they give us £10..a week for going on this coarse just to take me of the unemployment make incompetent politicians look good and them try to treat us like 16 year old.. we a office worker we call "Eva bran" the commandant you must look for work that does not exist.. read the local paper three times. each regarding environmental issues yes i think there is a lot to be done but his big smoke screen that AL gore is spouting ,, that day by day other are seeing holes in just like g.bush's presidential ..polices the big three INDIA...CHINA...RUSSIA.. are doing (enough pollution).. for the rest of the world. as for vegans i trust then as much as politically-correct Nazis
they have to do something in this life,???... Evan if it is wrong.. to others,.. i meditate do good to my fellow humans, like animals drink so-ya-protein eat the mice. beef, spreads but love my leather coats i have two..
yes....listening is the key to all dissuasion's
but some do not like being proved wrong..

message 12: by Ganesh (new)

Ganesh | 3 comments The day after Super Tuesday, when my extended family gathered for Lunar New Year, we discussed the primary results.

Did discussing politics ruin our holiday? No, it didn't. But it was definitely challenging for me. The last few days, I've been processing the conversation we had and how I felt during it.

I've realized what kind of listener I would like others to be ideally, which, of course, is the listener I now aim to be. I want to strike a balance between respecting other people’s views and expressing my own truth. I want to view these conversations as opportunities to learn about other people's opinions. I want to ask a lot of questions. Also, I think it would be healthy for me to cultivate a greater detachment to my opinions and any expectations of how the conversation will go.

A couple times, I found myself caught off guard, frustrated, and offended by opinions that struck me, at the time, as racist or irrational.

I think that the more practice I have discussing politics with people, the fewer surprises I'll experience. And sometimes, I’m offended because I’ve made assumptions about what a particular remark meant. When I'm confused, I think a good way for me to respond is by asking more questions.

Last but not least, I think having a sense of humor is key. In fact, I think having one is absolutely necessary to surviving a heated political discussion with my family.

message 13: by Clare (new)

Clare | 6 comments Tien, I was very struck by your posting. It is hard to find balance when having a conversation about politics. I, like you, often have to ask myself what I want to accomplish in the conversation. Recently I heard a friend refer to something as "ghetto", an adjective that is currently popular here and means "bad" as in her comment, "this place is so ghetto sometimes."

I was ready to jump in immediately and point out that the word ghetto was racist and that by using it she was propagating a view that all people who live in a ghetto are "bad" or perhaps "less than" others. Then I asked myself what I wanted to accomplish. This woman is not racist and was using popular vernacular. Did I really want to get into this discussion with her in front of a group of our co-workers? I realized I did not.

I don't think she had a clue that she was being racist/classist in her remark.

Sometimes it's hard to know what to do or say. I struggle with this issue and have to chose my battles carefully. I try to think about what the other person is thinking and feeling before I jump in with my assumptions and play race/class/sex police person.

message 14: by Clare (new)

Clare | 6 comments David, I do wish you the best in finding a job. It is very difficult when the job market is not good. And I certainly agree with you that people do not like to be proved wrong. That is why I think long and hard before getting into a discussion that can be explosive.

Regarding being or not being a vegetarian, I like the Native American approach to eating animals. When they ate elk or deer or whatever, they always thanked the God (as they knew them) for the blessing of the food.

I hope you find a good job soon.

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