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How to Have an Open-minded Discussion Regarding Deeply Held Convictions

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1. Always remember the purpose of the conversation is the exchange of ideas and experiences. The point of the conversation is to hear others’ point of view and to share your own.

2. Kindness and respect should be the mental stance throughout. If another person is listening to your convictions, they are doing you a kindness. If they are sharing their own convictions, you are receiving the reflected light of their revealed truth. Respect is appropriate at such times, and indeed, necessary for the exchange to occur.

3. Be secure in your own convictions. Do not be needy, asking for affirmation during the conversation. If what you think is true, no one needs to tell you so. You should not try to convince the other person to agree with you.

4. Ask questions and listen to the answers.

5. If you don’t understand something someone is saying, ask them to clarify: “When you said X, I’m not sure what you meant. Can you explain?”

6. Don’t press too hard for explanations. New ideas may take some time to get your mind around. By pressing too hard for evidence, you may cause them to feel defensive.

7. Should your conversation partner be persistent in trying to get affirmation from you when you don’t feel in agreement, do not answer insincerely. A soft answer, for example “I really need to think about that, I can’t answer right now” might help to get past the sticking point

8. If you begin to feel angry, disrespected or cornered during the discussion, try to direct the conversation toward a less sensitive area.

9. If your conversation partner expresses a racist, sexist, or violent idea, SPEAK OUT. If you let such ideas go unchallenged, you are lending support by your silence. Say something like, “I heard what you just said, and I disagree. Every person deserves respect as a part of our shared humanity.” If violence is mentioned, say, “It’s really not right to hurt anyone. There are better ways to handle the situation.”

10. If you feel close to responding in anger or otherwise behaving unkindly, excuse yourself. Try saying “This conversation is bringing up a lot of feelings for me. I really can’t keep talking about this. I’m sorry. Excuse me.” Abandoning the conversation is much better than hurting someone.

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About Murphy

  • http://xraystyle.blogspot.com Bryan McKay

    This is probably some advice that many Blogcritics commenters, specifically in those Politics debate threads, should probably pay more attention to. I think your points 1, 2, and 4 are probably the most important to keep in mind. Too often, conversations and discussions collapse into shouting matches and name-calling. No one seems interested in actually talking or learning anything anymore.

  • http://adamantsun.blogspot.com Steve S

    I always think things are a little different when religion is involved. And let’s face it, one side in this whole polarization of this country has wrapped their political beliefs up in religion.

    While, at face value, it sounds good to respect and listen to the other side, in my case, the other side is an insistence that I am an abomination. So for BOTH sides to win in a debate with me, it would need to play out like this: how can I get my equality and at the same time allow a large segment of the population their wishes, which is to continue treating me as an abhorable drek of society? And I am to respect this type of debate and look for a ‘middle ground’ there?

    I’ve heard the other side. I already know what they have to say. They have demonized my side for over 2,000 years. I’ve heard it already.

  • Maurice

    Great post, Murphy. Much needed. Dietdoc has bid his last adieu because of the lack of civility at this site. I end up skimming thru a lot ot the comments because of the tone.

    Lets try to keep this as a friendly site where we can share ideas and not be mean.

    Don’t take yourself (or anyone else) too seriously.