Can we learn to talk with Liberals?
By Don Rosenberg 8/12/2020
Many of us can’t believe how hateful political rhetoric has become in our country. How can we even talk with people from “the other side,” much less change their minds?
A lot of research has been done showing how hatred can actually become an addiction. People get a chemical rush from anger and reinforce it by communicating with like-minded individuals on social media.
In his sermon this past Sunday, a Charlotte pastor touched on the subject of “dealing with your enemies” from the Biblical perspective. He and his congregation had spent the last year going through the book of Romans and was now in Romans 12: 14-21 (ASV)
Bless them that persecute you; bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that rejoice; weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Set not your mind on high things, but condescend to things that are lowly. Be not wise in your own conceits. Render to no man evil for evil. Take thought for things honorable in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as in you lieth, be at peace with all men. Avenge not yourselves, beloved, but give place unto the wrath of God : for it is written, Vengeance belongeth unto me; I will recompense, saith the Lord. But if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him to drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
He explained that instead of opposing your enemies, the Bible is suggesting you bless them instead. You should show your empathy for what’s happening in their lives. It’s hard to hate someone who is kind and empathetic toward you.
Don’t deal with lofty topics, but focus on the day-to-day issues that we all have in common. Don’t think you’re the smartest person in the room. No one likes a know-it-all who is already formulating their reply while the other person is talking.
Studies show that “active listening” is very effective. Sit back and listen for a change. Hear what the other person is saying and reflect it back to them in different words to make sure you understand. Many people are taken aback that you’re actually listening, and actively seeking their point of view. Hearing their own words sometimes eye-opening. “Is that what I’m really saying?”
Your example of listening and considering the other side encourages your discussion partner to do the same – – listen to what you have to say.
The pastor continued. When someone wrongs you, don’t strike back – – a version of “turn the other cheek.”
This is so unexpected that it gives the other person pause. It short-circuits the hatred adrenaline rush he was expecting. Anger and fear are closely related, and if someone strikes out and you don’t respond in kind, they realize they don’t have to fear you.
He explained the final four passages… Try to be kind and helpful to everyone, regardless of who they are. If you are wronged, don’t become the judge, jury and executioner, but leave it to God to take care of. The hunger to right a wrong or avenge an offense can literally eat you up inside.
Show kindness, compassion and generosity toward your enemies when they are in need. When they’re hurting and receive kindness they are most open to changing their hearts.
It’s all summed up with the words “Overcome evil with good” – not greater evil.
It turns out that the Bible has a good handle on successfully changing someone from enemy to friend.
The science of persuasion has found that political views are based in emotion, not logic. In fact, a logically sound refutation of someone’s beliefs will make their position stronger.
This is rooted in tribalism, a valuable survival trait in early man’s history. A tribe that stuck together through challenging times was more successful than one that was constantly challenging their beliefs.
Talking to someone who is hostile toward you is a daunting task that takes a lot of self-control. After all, you’re human, too, and just as easily swayed by your emotions.
A good way to start is to state your honest respect and admiration for the other person, and point out that if the two of you talked a while you’d probably agree on 90% of your values.
Everyone wants themselves and their family to be happy, safe and secure in their home, work and city. Everyone wants a bright future for their children, which means good schools and job opportunities. Keep listing your common values in detail.
You’re talking with them not as a superior, or as if you think they’re stupid. Often they will express their admiration for you as well.
Suggest to start with a single manageable subject, preferably one that’s not too extreme and where you have good knowledge.
Review where you both agree, and start asking about what your companion thinks should be done. If the discussion starts to wander, gently say that it’s a good topic, but one to discuss later.
Wait to hear their opinions and suggestions before rushing to tell them yours. Often people have beliefs that are not well grounded in fact and realize they don’t have all the answers. They may become more open to your input.
For example, “should charter schools be expanded or limited?” Your friend might think they’re bad. Ask why? What harm do they cause? Are they better or worse than public schools? Why? Reflect his answers back to him to make sure you understand his points and to get him to listen to his own words.
When you agree with one of his points, do so enthusiastically. This puts him at ease, and makes him more likely to agree with your good points.
Summarize the conversation. You want your kids to have a good education. You want education to be fair to all, etc.
Then point out the “fork in the road” where you disagree. That’s where you focus your discussion until you can come to an agreement, or agree to disagree and seek out more information for your next chat.
The Bible and science concur, the best way we can bring our country together is in person, one at a time, showing mutual respect.
I know this may sound naive, but our job is to persuade people to consider our side. When has anyone changed their mind because someone yelled at them and called them stupid?