Part of learning how to talk to people we disagree with is respecting different opinions. It can be difficult to learn how to talk to people you have nothing in common with – particularly when we’re talking about politics, religion, money and any other sticking point in your life.
Today I’ll share three rules for having conversations with people we disagree with – so we can ultimately be people respecting different opinions.
“Most people don’t fit into a perfect persona that’s been made for the left or the right. Most people have a big spectrum of beliefs. There’s a reason they agree with something on the left and something on the right. You really can’t jump to a conclusion about a person based on one issue,” I shared in this podcast episode.
Rule 1: Respecting Different Opinions Starts with Listening to Learn
When you enter a conversation with people you have nothing in common with consider coming at the conversation looking to learn.
When you come into a conversation for learning it changes everything.
I learned this as a reporter. For the first time in my life, I had to sit and listen. Reporting helped me hone in on the skill of listening. when you listen you get to learn someone’s perspective.
“I had to listen in news so I could share their perspective in their story.”
Back when I was a college freshman, me and my group of friends would sit late into the night outside the dorms doing exactly that.
We would talk about politics, ideas for the future, policies, what was good, what was concerning, about war, and where money is spent. Our beliefs were all over the map as some of us were in young Democrats some of us were in young Republicans.
It wasn’t a debate, it was just conversation.
There’s few conversations I’ve had like that. I think the reason is because we were young, just out of our parents’ homes and we were interested in learning new things.
In this opportunity and conversation, we were just learning. We were fascinated with what each other thought, instead of trying to debate or talk someone out of a belief.
We enjoyed learning why things were important to other people.
It’s so important to go into a conversation with fundamental differences – whether it’s politics, religion or any other sticking point in your life – where you just listen.
Listen to learn.
That’s how to talk to people you have nothing in common with.
If it’s a conversation you don’t want to be part of – then don’t be part of it. You can learn more about setting your own boundaries here and identifying triggers with family members here.
Rule 2: Talk to Someone with Different Opinions in PERSON
You will have an easier time respecting different opinions when you choose to have your conversations in real life rather than online. You can hear tone, inflection and you can see someone’s real life human face in front of you.
In that moment, you can see that you’re talking to a real person that matters just as much as you do.
These “different opinions” become more than just someone with different opinions online. They become a real life human person with a rich background and life.
When you talk online about someone’s ideas – it just seems like a rant. You don’t see their heartfelt ideals through the tears in their eyes, you don’t see the struggle. You don’t see the fidgeting of the hands through the anxiety this person feels.
Talking to someone online dehumanizes people.
Rule 3: Use ‘I’ Statements
We’ve all learned this in therapy and it matters just as much here when trying to respect different opinions.
Start your sentences with “I think,” “I believe,” “I feel” rather than stating how you think someone else feels. Anytime we begin our sentence with “You think,” “You believe,” or “You feel” it has an accusatory tone.
- If you need help with exit strategies to get out of conversations that are turning into debates, check out this episode of Happiness in Progress
- If you need to have a boundaries talk – listen to this episode
- Here’s how to understand limitations and offer more grace