I Had A Conversation With A Trump Supporter To Try To Find Common Ground...It Lasted 3 Hours
I recently had a conversation with a well-known YouTuber and Trump Supporter, Dr. Karlyn Borysenko. The goal was to have a civilized conversation, attempt to understand each other, and possibly find common ground. That conversation lasted 3 hours. Here's the proof:
There were quite a few lessons I learned from that discussion that may be relevant to share. Hopefully, they can help you navigate the difficult conversations you are currently having in your life.
Get outside your echo chamber and attempt to have civilized, respectful conversations with people that disagree with you.
#1. Have a conversation with someone you disagree with, where you ask them curious questions
Don't try to debate them or tell them they're wrong, but be curious and actively listen to understand
#2. When having conversations, discern whether you are trying to be right or trying to understand, as you cannot do both I learned this from my friend Eric Bailey.
#3. Acknowledge other people's experiences even if they disagree with yours
One of the most hurtful things you can do is deny someone's else experiences.
Real conversations can only happen when you acknowledge each other's experiences.
When you do this, you are communicating that you see each other for who they are, you see each other's humanity, and that is where the healing can begin.
#4. Do not conflate all people that disagree with you into a single demographic. Try to see the individual as an individual instead of grouping them with everyone else to fit your narrative.
From the 3-hour discussion, I learned that I need to be more discerning between a centrist Trump Supporter and a QAnon conspiracy theorist.
They may be at the same rally, but that doesn't mean they all agree on the same policies and direction of their movement or even have the same values.
You could say the same thing about a group of people at a BLM protest, as some people may identify themselves as staunch democrats. In contrast, others subscribe to more socialist democratic ideals that Bernie and AOC represent like me.
By seeing the person as an individual, you then aren't making assumptions that they believe certain stances that they never said they agreed with
Example: The Trump Supporter I spoke with disagrees with the people that carry Confederate and Nazi flags around or sling antisemitic and racist insults at people. She believes that is a loud, small fringe then gets media coverage due to their extreme points of view.
She knows many Trump supporters that don't agree with those racist ideologies.
They feel even more ostracized when they are called racists and grouped with these extremists
#5. Recognize when you are describing yourself as the hero in your own story and whether the people you have painted as the villains are really "evil" or have a different point of view
We have to be willing to call ourselves out on our BS when we demonize a whole group of people because it fits our narrative where we can be right, and they can be considered ignorant and wrong.
#6. If that person you disagree with triggers you too much for you to have that conversation, then maybe you are not ready, so don't force it
The same goes for having a conversation with someone else with drastically different political beliefs than you.
They may not be ready to have the conversation you are prepared to have, so you must be patient.
These conversations are especially true with family members where you want to have political debates during the holidays, yet those are the least opportune times to have them.
How Can You Have More Of These Conversations?
Suppose you don't know anyone that you drastically disagree with and want to have a civilized conversation with someone with a different political affiliation. There are organizations like Braver Angels that facilitate respectful discussions between the left and right.
You can also put out on social media that you are looking for someone representing a different point of view and seeing who volunteers.
That is what my friend, Louise Wo, did back in July of 2020. She ended up having a conversation with someone she knew from her past who had extremely conservative religious views and posted these extreme stances on FB. These types of posts made Louise cringe, so she stepped into that discomfort and invited this person to have a discussion with her. They ended up having a 2.5-hour conversation.
Recognize that these conversations are not easy. They take a great deal of patience and understanding. You have to be open to having your mind change. You have to be open to being wrong. Most importantly, you have to remember that when the other person disagrees with you, they are not attacking you or denying your experience. If each of us can attempt to do these experiments, step out of our left/right bubbles, and be uncomfortable, maybe we can start to have a dialog with one another. Perhaps we can begin to rebuild some trust and respect that has been lost over the past four years, if not longer.