An Exciting Story of “Conversion:” or, How to Spread the Word

This is a great story about changing our mindsets. I’m going to omit a few details for privacy but will be quoting directly as much as I can.

I was discussing Something to Consider with a friend of mine on Facebook the other day and was told for the first time that he just wasn't interested.

I had been riding so much personal enthusiasm for the movement that I was quite startled. I had to inquire further.

He elaborated: “You would have a really hard time getting me to assume [my opposition] is reasonable and capable of working with me… I made a post yesterday where I said [the other political party] shouldn't be allowed in my field at all. I just, as a fact, will not work with them.”

I almost gave up there to prioritize my evangelizing elsewhere. But this friend of mine is smart, educated, and someone I care about, so I gave it a crack.

I said: “I’d argue that the depth of your disagreement comes from cultural entrenchment [and each side defending itself against the other]. Our movement winning requires changing culture. And the tough part is having the courage to come out of our own entrenchment and give someone the space where they’re not on the defensive.”

He asked: “ many years do you expect this to take?”

I smiled: I knew I was making progress. “Many. But it’s that, or give up. Fighting a war won’t win; we currently put too much effort into that, never thinking about whether holding signs and calling people names will change anything. It won’t. We can put our effort into this bad strategy, or put it into a more patient long game. So it's either put effort in something that doesn't work, or something that does.”

There was a pause before he wrote. “...that’s true. But I just don’t think you have the capability to change those people. I keep looking at people who don’t change even if you try.”

I finished: “There are some of those, but we haven’t been using the right approach. Maybe it won’t work with everybody, but I’m done yelling and getting into fights. It does nobody any good. How do you know whether someone can change when all you do is tell them they're dumb?”

And then we achieved agreement. “I’ll go take a look at the blog--after I write this paper. But in any case, you’re right.”

He's since become one of our most active supporters.

Consider how you’ll approach your next conversation about bringing a new person into the community. And have a think about how you might change your next conversation with someone that disagrees with you on politics!

And let us know if you have a great story of coming out of the trenches with someone else and learning together.

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Erik Fogg

We do politics, but we don't do the thinking for you.