Posts about Bill Gates being a Lizard King
Posts that spread racist or sexist ideas
You see them all the time. You don’t agree with them. But what do you do about them?
This question comes up for me all the time. And each time I’m torn.
On the one hand, I know that allowing misinformation and bigotry to spread unchecked only makes things worse.
On the other hand, EVERY time I respond to one of these posts I get attacked, piled on, dismissed, or even worse I somehow seem to invite more conflict from both sides.
So what do you do?
To be honest, this is why I avoid commenting on posts I disagree with, but when I do I have found one way to offer a different perspective that seems to create the most space for people to connect around their shared values.
Here’s what I do:
1) Talk about your own experience – Instead of telling people they’re dumb or crazy. Simply share your own experience of you’ve grown and changed in your understanding.
For example, this year I bought a gun for target shooting. I believe in gun control and yet when I went to buy my gun I found the process frustrating. It seemed like there were so many loops to jump through and details to manage. But then I remembered that if I was angry or bent on violence all the steps and safeguards may have given me space to really think about my actions, it might have helped me calm down, and decide to not hurt someone I cared about. I get how annoying it is, but I’m glad we have laws that help keep us safe.
Now when I talk to people who are against gun restrictions I can share this experience. Not from a place of ‘guns are bad and you’re a violent nut for liking them,’ but from a place where I truly honor the desire to do something you enjoy and the frustration with laws that seem to get in the way of that.
By sharing your own experiences of how you relate to an issue, you make your opinions about you. You invite people into a story of your life, rather than creating a story about theirs.
2) Honor other people’s feelings – Often when we disagree with someone we discount how they feel. How can they be angry at immigrants? How can they be scared of something that’s been proven safe? How can they feel so reassured by false facts?
But even though they may have come to a different conclusion, their feelings are real.
SO when you talk to people honor their feelings. Express empathy with their desire for freedom, the longing for safety, their sense of unfairness, and then offer a new way to look at the same issue.
“I understand that you get angry at the thought that people who break the law might take jobs from law-abiding citizens, it makes sense, and I learned something the other day about immigrant labor that made me think differently about that.
“I understand that vaccines feel scary and that after hearing some people’s stories you feel cautious. When I hear those stories a part of me feels worried too.”
When you do this, you’re letting them know, ‘ You’re not crazy to feel that way’ and I have a different take on it. When you really hear people, you make it easier for them to hear you.
3) Don’t make other people wrong – Finally, if you can, don’t make the people you’re disagreeing with wrong. We usually do this by saying things like
“people who don’t wear masks are idiots” or “anyone who doesn’t get their kids vaccinated is a bad parent”
If someone is calling you an idiot or a bad parent, you’re not likely to listen to them.
So instead let them be who they are and simply offer an alternative point of view.
“I get that people who don’t wear masks care about their personal freedom, but for me, I realized that in this case, my freedom might hurt someone I love.”
“I can really feel the love anti-vax parents have for their kids. I care about my kids too and I’m scared they might get sick from some of the horrible diseases we have vaccines for. . . “
By understanding and honoring their intentions even if you disagree with their conclusions makes a big difference.
At our core, we all want the same things. We want our friends and family to be safe and happy. And while the strategies we use to get there might be different, the desire is the same.
Learning how to tap into this, is sort of like a magic spell. One that helps us connect with the deep humanity underneath opinions and points of view. If you can learn to come from this place consistently there’s so much that’s possible. ANd it’s this kind of deep compassion that our world needs now more than ever.