I can’t decide whether the increase in interest regarding political and sociopolitical issues with my generation is down to us “growing-up”, or whether we are living in a period of heightened awareness and change. Either way, I have been a part of, or witnessed many heated conversations about the way the world is going.
Most people have pretty solid opinions on how they think things should be. These opinions have been formed by their role models, their education and their personal experiences. It’s hard to remember sometimes, that people who disagree with you, formed their opinion for a reason. (Well, most people do anyway, I am choosing to ignore trolls and devil’s advocates for the purposes of this musing, and indeed I try to ignore them in life as well.)
When somebody fundamentally disagrees with you about something that you consider to be so blatantly obvious, it is hard to meet the other opinion with anything but disbelief, incredulity and even anger. But this is where compassion comes in. Treating someone else like they are stupid and their opinion is invalid, is then discounting their personal experiences. It’s pretty hard to change someone’s mind in one conversation when you are challenging something that may be one of their core beliefs.
I am not saying that we should go tip-toeing around racists and bigots and misogynists. I am not even necessarily saying we should try to avoid discussing contentious issues with people who disagree with us at all. My point is that you have to check your motives and manage your expectations of what the outcome is going to be. When you are incredibly passionate about something, it can really hurt when people can’t see where you are coming from. But the answer isn’t to just to say your opinion really loudly over and over again. If we really want to instigate change, we have to listen to the other side, and I mean really listen.
Not listening as in waiting for a pause in the conversation so you can say your point that have you have been wording in your head while the other person has been talking. Listening as in hearing where they are coming from and why they think the way they do. Unless you do that, a conversation is really just two people taking turns talking at each other.
It’s not an easy thing to do, but I believe it’s the only way to actually have any success at learning how to connect with and reach people who don’t automatically hold the same beliefs as you. In my experience, unless somebody comes and asks you to tell you more about insert-world-view-here, then they are probably not open to having their minds changed anyway. You might still be able to win a debate, which may leave you feeling validated but isn’t going to ultimately help recruit anybody to your cause.
Just to reiterate, I am in no way saying that you should go around seeking to be put down by anyone else or bullied by someone else’s opinion, coz screw that. Equally, you shouldn’t have to listen to someone telling you that your experiences don’t matter. I just urge you to check your motives. Knocking someone down a peg and planting a seed that may lead them to question some of their previously held beliefs, are not the same thing.
We need to show people love, particularly those who seem to only know hate. So when you feel up to it, I challenge you to give it a go. Try listening to someone who you find it hard to relate to without planning what you want to say back. In a weeks time there are going to be a bunch of people in the U.K who are going to be devastated, whatever the outcome is. I urge everyone to remember that the majority of people do want what’s best for the country, but everyone has a different idea of what that looks like. We still need to be able to live with each other and work together.
I know it’s hard, but you’re a Badass and one of the most badass things you can do is show love to people regardless of whether you feel they have earned it.
Peace and love