How To Hold A Positive Conversation About Controversial Topics.

Wednesday, July 01

By Allison Kephart

Being ignorant of a topic, or a dozen topics, then slowly learning and changing your stance on them isn't as frightening as you might think. When you're on the wrong side of history, it's easy to believe you're right and everyone else is wrong. It's easy to think you know everything, and there is nothing left for you to learn. It's hard to accept that you're the wrong one who needs to learn a thing or two. 

The hardest thing for some people stuck in their ways is to start learning. It can take years for a person to develop hateful, prejudice, and unaccepting behavior- so unlearning those negative traits is not going to happen overnight. Please be patient with those you are informing, or trying to inform. Yes, it is 100% possible to unlearn, relearn, and then go on to teach, but it won't be easy. 

This lesson is for those on both sides. Those who hold conservative views and have trouble being open to ideas and people unlike themselves, and progressives who don't have the patience to teach and explain to the opposite side why they might not be right. It is all about how you approach a topic, don't demand or yell- no one is receptive to being spoken to like they are not worthy of respect. We all know that the other party in the conversation might not follow these suggestions, but that doesn't mean you should forget them. You could talk to them like a well-mannered 6-year-old, speaking slowly and kindly, but not like they are an animal who learned something new. Write your arguments down; they are going to come at you with conflicting facts that may or may not be accurate, so you have to keep a level head. It's okay not to know everything, and it's okay to learn something from the person you are trying to teach. 

Let them ask questions, even if they seem obvious to you. No question is a stupid question as long as it's asked with intent. Let them ask over and over again; not everyone can retain information the same way. If they ask multiple times, it means they genuinely want to know, even though they may ask in a sarcastic way (people do it as a way to protect them from embarrassment, and that's okay). 

If you're sitting here wondering if there is a 'breaking point', a moment, or a tweet that should be the point of no return, the answer is probably no. That doesn't mean there won't be, but if you're looking for one, you're not going to find it. Change is gradual and happens over time. Sometimes that means forcing yourself out of your comfort zone and exposing yourself to people you've never thought or had the chance in which to be exposed. Just remember that it is never too late to learn, join the conversation, or be a better person. 

Having hard conversations about difficult topics is never easy, it sometimes can feel like an uphill battle, but there is justice on the other side. Donate to causes in need, sign petitions, read up, and listen to the voices that need to be heard. As long as you do your part and do everything you can to help the world be a better place, you're on the right side of history. 

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