How often do you ask questions during your political conversations, either online or in person?
I mean really ask questions, with the intent to learn more from the other person? Presumably they’re someone smart that you respect: otherwise, why are you wasting your time?
A few readers have asked us for guidance on how to improve their political dialogue, tactically. They mentioned that they believe in the mission but recognize that they have habits built over years of trying to “win” political conversations that lead them astray.
Brewing in the lab is a book codenamed “The Definitive Playbook for Political Conversations,” but for the moment we’ll share a few thoughts that should resemble one of the chapters when it’s complete.
Start here: believe deep-down that the best thing you can do during a political conversation is learn.
If we have the humility to recognize that new perspectives can help us further approach the truth of a matter, this becomes an easy mindset to adopt.
But even if we are completely convinced the person we’re talking to is just plain wrong, what’s the best way to win them to our side?
Understand their ideas and the place they’re coming from
Find shared values and realize that ultimately we want the same good in the world
Work together to find the logical progression from those values to policy
These steps all require genuine curiosity. To practice that in our political dialogue, we can lean on a few questions that can get us started--the rest should be a great conversation:
“Assume I’ve never encountered this question. Could you explain to me what’s going on and where your perspective comes from?”
“Why might you think people that disagree with you believe what they do? What are the assumptions and values that they have? How might a reasonable person defend the opposing viewpoint?”
“Here’s one way to look at what I think. [Elaborate eloquently.] What do you think might be missing from that perspective?”
Give this a try and let us know what happens--both what works, and what doesn’t.