When someone holds a view that’s very different than your own, the temptation is to say whatever you can to convince them of their error – if only they had the facts, you reason, they would change their minds! Truth is, many studies of human behavior have concluded that this is usually not the case. All the facts in the world will often not change anyone’s mind about much of anything. (By the way, talking more loudly doesn’t work, either.) What might have a chance of making a difference is the discipline of truly listening to another about something you disagree about. Finding some tiny piece of what the other is saying that you can empathize with. Searching high and low for some sliver of common
ground. Then, use that small beginning to start a conversation.
Some years ago, I was at a conference in Tucson, AZ about border issues and one of the speakers was part of a group that would leave jugs of water in the desert in an effort to assist those who were attempting to cross into the U.S. A participant in the crowd could not, at first, hear her – he could only respond to what he saw as supporting those who were breaking the law. The speaker skillfully engaged him in dialogue – did he have a child? Yes. Would he want someone to care for that child if they were in need? Of course. Did he want anyone to die that kind of death in a desert? No. Was the exchange magic? Of course not. I don’t assume that the man all of a sudden became an advocate for those crossing the desert. But, there was an opening that gave room for a bit of light. This week, I invite you to think about how you could find that bit of light with someone you don’t understand.