If you want to rile people up, start talking about guns.
That’s one of the challenges in the national conversation about making schools safer for kids. You can’t address the issue without talking about guns — and you can’t talk about guns without inciting high emotion.
It can be hard to talk about issues that are controversial. But that’s usually when those conversations are most important.
Some people just want to rant. And if you’re this person, by all means, you can do so. But others want to have meaningful, productive discussions — whether it’s about guns or weekend plans. So if you’re looking to do more than infuriate those who don’t share your opinion, here are a few tips for treading into controversial territory:
- Avoid swearing, name-calling and sweeping accusatory statements. These are emotionally charged, which is generally considered to be counter-productive to fostering conversation.
- Focus on listening, not on talking. You’ll be able to communicate more effectively if you have heard and understood the perspective of the other side, and people are more likely to listen to you if they feel they’ve been heard.
- Be open to new ideas. If you really aren’t open to any perspectives other than your own, you probably should back out of the conversation until you are. If your goal is to be heard, be right or to vent, talk to a closed circle of like-minded individuals instead.
- Ask yourself what you are willing to sacrifice. In productive negotiations, everyone gives up something that is important to them in order to benefit the whole. Accept that you won’t get everything you want.
- Identify your assumptions. Everyone has preconceived ideas of what another person wants or thinks — but we don’t always see our own beliefs because we assume they’re true. Fact check basic views to make sure you’re not assuming.
- Focus on what you agree on. Though it can be portrayed otherwise, we agree on a lot more than it might seem. Identify what you agree on and build off of that.
- Identify a common goal. If you can agree on a desired outcome, it’ll be easier to move forward to a solution.
- End or leave a conversation that is unproductive. You don’t need to engage in conversation with everyone or stay in a conversation that becomes heated. Count the productive parts as a win and come back to it — or not — at a later time.
FINDING COMMON GROUND SURVEY
We already know what we disagree about when it comes to guns — let’s see if there’s anything we do agree on. We’ll keep the conversation simple to start with. Rate how you feel about the following statements: Strongly disagree, disagree, neutral, agree, strongly agree. Results may be shared in a future issue of Inland 360.