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How to Have A Conversation With Someone You Disagree With

In this day and age, there is a lot of tension surrounding conversations in the social climate. Everyone has very different, very passionate, opinions regarding popular topics such as politics, religion, gender equality, government policy etc. Many people will say that we should stray away from these topics of conversation as they are “too sensitive” and may offend someone. 

I think it is important, now, more than ever that we learn how to properly address these issues. We need to learn how to have productive conversations surrounding “controversial topics”, especially with those who have differing opinions than we do.

The only way we're are going to improve as a society and as an individual is if we learn to accept and listen to other ways of thinking.

Here's a list of steps I’ve compiled on how to have a productive conversation with someone you disagree with. 

1. Listen with a calm and open heart

  • This may be difficult at first. 
  • Regardless of the feelings you personally feel, instead of thinking of a reply or a refute to what is being said. Just listen. Listen calmly. Listen with an open heart and open mind.
  • It is important to understand that you are having a conversation, not an argument or a debate. 

2. If you are going to make a statement about your opinion, have knowledge of where it is coming from. And be able to back it up with facts. 

  • In this day and age of “fake news”, a lot of what we read online may or may not be true.
  • That is why it is important to realize where your evidence of opinion is coming from and be able to back it up with credible facts
  • If you feel a certain way about immigration policy because of an article you read on Facebook, it may not be the most credible article to refer to when having a conversation about immigration. 
  • If you are going to cite something on Facebook to contribute to the conversation, acknowledge that you read it from Facebook. The simple dynamic of acknowledging your source will change the whole dynamic of the conversation, making you appear more honest and credible as a person. Even if your fact may not be as credible. 

3. Remember the goal: the goal of the conversation is to listen and learn, not change opinions

  • It is important to set a goal or an intention for the conversation. 
  • Try using “I” words and “I feel” statements  to avoid making the other person feel targeted or as if you are trying to change their point of view 

4. Remember everyone comes from different walks of life, what unites us all is our humanity 

  • Find commonality in humanity
  • The bulk of why each of us has differing opinions surrounding hot societal topics is because of where we come from. We are all going to have different opinions based on what we have previously experienced in life. 
  • It is important to remember that we are all entitled to our own personal opinion. Try to be mindful and acknowledge that. 

We see it in the media every day, and throughout passing conversations in our daily lives. People getting in arguments and passionate debates over differing opinions. Not just surrounding politics or religion, but even the smallest of things like what to eat for dinner. It is important that we as individuals learn and understand how to have a productive conversation with someone we disagree with. Not only will we learn about other ways of thought, but we can also improve the ways we problem solve, and the quality of our relationships we hold in life. All it takes is an open heart and an open mind. Holding the commonality in humanity above all else. 

Chynna Chan

C of C '19

International Businesss major and Spanish minor at the College of Charleston. Originally from San Diego, CA. Lover of Hot Cheetos and Mexican street tacos. Meditation advocate. Traveler. Foodie. Interested in saving the world. 
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