It’s both possible and important to have good quality conversations with people with whom we disagree. There are some simple (but not easy) principles to keep in mind:
- Be sure your goal is to connect and understand - and not to change minds. Listen to learn, not to prepare a rebuttal. People understand and use words and phrases in very different ways. Don't assume you understand what the other person means: "I want to be sure we are both talking about the same thing. Could you help me understand what you mean when you say 'X'?"
- Frame the discussion as a sharing perspectives, not an argument about who is right. Try to use “I” statements that make it clear you are talking about your personal perspective, not stating truths. Don’t ask why they believe something or insist on evidence. Instead ask them how they came to their perspective.
- Find places you agree before discussing the areas where you disagree. Often people agree on basic principles and values, but disagree about which values to prioritize or how to achieve agreed upon goals.
Don’t get hung up arguing about what is ’true’ and instead focus on what each person sees as important.