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Responding to the opposition

There is a lot of partisan anger about at the moment. Right wing vs left wing; Conservative vs Labour; Leavers vs Remainers. Each person certain of their view and unwilling to consider each other’s point of view. So how do we respond in a world like that?

A quick look at Twitter or similar social media platforms and you see anger, vitriol, personal attacks to points of view that people disagree with. There is a disbelief that someone could be so stupid for believing such a thing and that view is expressed. And of course, following that expression, Twitter war then ensues. So, is there a better way to dealing with opposing views?

Matthew Syed, in his book ‘Rebel Ideas’ talks about many in our world today live in ‘Echo Chambers’. He explains how those people in an echo chamber hold concrete views and any opposing view is seen as false news or a conspiracy. The only response then is to discredit the other view or alternatively discredit the person. Syed explains that the one thing that helps people understand a different view and change their thinking is to build trust.

So, how do you go about that. In my experience, it starts with this:

Listen, don’t get angry, consider what you say before speaking.

Listen. Listen, not to have a conversation, but listen to understand. What is their thinking? Where does it come from? If it is a conversation in person, what do you notice about their body language and tone?

Don’t get angry. It doesn’t help. In most cases their point of view is not a personal attack on you. Even if it is a bit more personal, it is probably because they have run out of constructive argument and it is a last resort. Getting personal is also a tactic of the echo chamber.

Consider what you are saying. I have some great steps for this to help you engage the listener.

  1. Respect something in their idea that you can find has some substance

  2. Present your thinking as an idea

  3. Explain the ‘why’ of your idea

  4. Give a story from your experience or an example of when it worked

  5. Explain the impact it has had or could have

If you think graphically it is depicted here:

This approach will help us start to develop trust with one another and help each other to widen our thinking and start the journey of building trust. Shouting or getting cross just embeds entrenched positions.

Building Trust had 5 key components to it. You will see from this infographic that listening and building relationship is key to it.

Imagine approaching one another with:

Listen, don’t get angry, consider what you say before speaking.

Imagine if every social media post was responded to like that? Imagine every interaction of people with opposing views had that. Imagine if our houses of parliament was like that? Imagine if we were all like that?

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