More Effectively Engaging Controversial Issues

By | March 12, 2019

Perhaps the thing I hate most about controversial issues is this: it seems that most people, when they say something about one, implicitly or explicitly express the view that their way of seeing it is so clear and obvious while the other side is incomprehensible. But it usually goes no farther than this. So long as we continue to hold that those on “the other side” are stupid if not evil, little if any progress will be made. (People tend to think that the solution is for their side to become powerful enough to overcome the other side, but typically this doesn’t happen, rather it only leads to deeper divide.) Instead, the way forward begins with trying to understand why the other side thinks the way they do. This almost certainly involves getting beneath the surface, because the real issue is usually something deeper. And until we begin to address the real issues behind the surface controversies, we won’t make much ground in convincing people to change their minds.

Along with this, I hypothesize that most of us make decisions based more on our emotions than reason, though we’re often not aware of it. Instead, we use reason to try and convince ourselves and others that our choice is rational. If this is true, arguing about facts, statistics, and reason aren’t going to do much to change someone’s mind. So again, it’s important to get to the real motivation behind someone’s beliefs if we want to have any chance at persuading them to see things differently.

photo credit: M. Pratter via photopin cc

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