“It’s political correctness gone mad!” I heard people exclaim as I squeezed past them on the cramped street corner. Fists were being thrown, globules of spit were flying through the air and faces went from red to purple as the group verbally welted each other.
“This football team is better than that one, this country’s laws are more effective than the other’s and my views on health and dieting are just objectively correct, end of.”
The day’s shouting match was in full swing.
However, when such an event takes place, I can’t help thinking that people aren’t actually listening to each other and are, rather, simply waiting their turn to “convert” the other person to their own ideology.
This is extremely frustrating, especially if you are passionate about the topic you’re debating. So what can we do to ensure we are being listened to and that our views are being taken on board? Here’s some ideas:
Papa, don’t preach!
What is so hard to remember in the heat of the moment is that debates are discussions, not lectures.
People are more inclined to listen to you if they feel included in the discussion rather than feel like they are being berated. Additionally, people don’t want to feel inferior- so speaking to someone like their opinion is invalid makes it more likely that they won’t listen to you and absorb the information you are sharing with them.
This is apparent in education, with people being more inclined to pay attention in a seminar rather than a lecture as they are able to participate and feel part of the discussion.
Also, how much more likely are you to listen to your friend’s opinion than your parents? Nobody wants to be nagged by someone who perceives themselves to be in charge.
Knowledge is power.
Although, to you, your belief is unquestionable, you are also participating in this debate in order to extend your knowledge of the subject. Therefore, it is vital that you sit back and really listen to the other person’s opinion; listen, empathise, and then decide whether or not you think this is a fair point.
It is far too easy to just switch off as soon as you hear or see something you dislike but being able to discuss the topic from both sides of the argument will put you in a favourable position.
An argument that considers both sides becomes titanium because there isn’t any information being neglected.
Have you done your research?
There is really nothing worse than arguing with someone who clearly doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Vagueness and ambiguity is the death of any debate as, well, there’s not enough substance there.
I think it was uh, either Plato or Rowling who said that. Or some other stuff like that I think… see what I mean?
So, save yourself the time and embarrassment and gather your sources or ‘fess up that you don’t know that much about the topic but you do have some feelings about it, and then be willing to learn more from your spat-mate.
The Belligerence Blunder.
Of course emotions are going to be heightened when people are discussing or protesting something they feel attached to, so it’s easy for this emotion to be conveyed as aggression. Too often, passionate feminists are referred to as “feminazis” or, more recently, “SJWs (social justice warriors)” because of their highly emotional responses to injustice and sexism. And hey, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but how to people respond to anger?
Just as you don’t like to be told off for you opinions, other people equally dislike it- especially when they’re feeling attacked. The response can go then go two ways; rage or ridicule.
The rage response can be caused by a mixture of embarrassment (that they are either incorrect or just that they have been shouted at), pride (commitment to their own belief) and natural defence responses (“Hey, you’re shouting at me so I’ll shout louder!”) However the ridicule response comes from that voice in out head that tells us to “take the high road” and not “rise to it.” With ridicule, the other person can, not only look level headed and more with-it but can use satire to belittle your views, making them invalid to all of those around.
So, the best way to avoid your view from appearing weak is to remain calm, speak assertively rather than aggressively and avoid using emotive language or gestures.
Visual Demonstration appreciation!
If, like me, you would rather have eternal pins and needles than engage in verbal confrontation, than this last tip is one for you, and it’s one that I am a strong advocate for.
Art is the most powerful and influential tool that we have to express our thoughts and beliefs, and this is just so evident in today’s culture. Artists such as women and transgender rights advocate, Frances Cannon have a huge following.
With 95.9 thousand followers, Cannon’s follow count is not much less than the estimated 100, 000 women that attended the Women’s March in London this year, which just shows you how powerful a picture can be.
Artists have been using their work for good for years; Banksy, Basquiat, Holzer, The Clash, Bikini Kill, Bukowski, you name it. I don’t believe that an artist exists without a message tied to their work. It’s just so effective in terms of the support that you gain from creating something that people can look at and think “Yeah, I totally feel that.”
Okay, yes. I doubt that Trump teared up whilst admiring one of Gentileschi’s masterpieces or never touched a steak again after listening to The Smiths, but these artists are getting more than the validation of one person because they’re moving thousands of others.
So, if you can educate someone whose beliefs are a tad outdated, calmly prove to someone why your economic tactics will save the country or show someone that there is, in fact, a god then, hey, you go.
But if these guidelines aren’t enough to sway the other side, then continue to move the masses with the wisdom, beauty and knowledge that you convey in your words and in your art, keep your mind open to unexpected lessons, and save your energy from those who will never open theirs.