I'm a subscriber to the VitalSmarts Crucial Skills newsletter. VitalSmarts is a training company and a team of authors responsible for excellent books and trainings, like Crucial Conversations, Crucial Accountability. and The Influencer. You can find them all on Amazon and on their website, along with downloadable free resources.
In a recent newsletter, Joseph Grenny's post on "How to Argue Civilly" is a brief summary of best practices for the kinds of emotional conversations we might have with loved ones, especially around the holidays. I got curious about who else is writing on this topic, and did a little research on "how to argue civilly." A quick Google search returned pages of possibilities. I list three here that I found particularly useful.
In this time of unrest and polarization, I'm doing what I can to engage my own difficult conversations with respect, curiosity and compassion. If someone thinks or feels differently about a candidate, a policy, or a party, what harm can come from learning how they arrived at their opinions? Most of the time, I find differences fascinating, not frustrating.
That said, I've written a lot recently on how to communicate successfully, so I'll stop here and let you read what others are saying.
How to Argue Civilly, by the VitalSmarts organization
Interesting research on how "our ideas are shaped more by the tribes we identify with than the facts we sift through." Plus some suggestions on how to engage with "monologue-ers". Below are three practices they suggest, and you'll learn more if you read the entire article.
- Decide what you really want. If you don't want to talk politics, say so, and talk about other topics where you have more in common.
- Agree on ground rules. If you're okay talking about difficult topics, ask for a combination of inquiry and advocacy. Coach your partner on how to hold the conversation purposefully.
- Get curious. Even if you disagree, you'll leave the conversation with a sense of respect for the other party.
This Civil Comments post offers tips to turn disagreements into mutual learning opportunities, and "encounter opinions and experiences that are different from our own without being blinded by anger or jumping to conclusions."
If you're "worried that you’ll lose friends if you say what you really think—and lose your mind if you don’t," this post by author and professor Jay Heinrichs (from the Charles Koch Institute website) tells us we can in fact engage in civil conversations about politics, religion and similar challenging topics, if we:
- are anger-free, at least outwardly.
- air disparate views, making it an educational event for both sides.
- seek to discover common values.
- look to make an agreed-upon choice when it comes to politics. A consensus.
Again, please read the post. Its brevity belies the excellent (and fun!) content. As Heinrichs says: Civil debate does not have to be bland. Just prepare to smile and back off if the anger builds. After all, what’s your point: to prove the other guy is a jerk, or accomplish something more noble?
Wishing you healthy, civil, learning conversations.