Our world is becoming more and more polarized and I’ve been looking for ways to help bridge the gaps. I hope you find what I’ve discovered useful.
I interviewed more than 45 people on how they think and talk about hot topics from all sides of major conflicts. I talked with anti-vaxxers and pro-vaxxers, top environmentalists, loggers, Trump supporters, chiropractors, healers, Millenials, Christians and more. Most of the challenges I heard were about the difficultly to express our truth, to be heard, to be respected, to be ourselves around people who hold different opinions. I heard about the difficulty to continue a conversation after being labelled – as an environmentalist, as an anti-vaxxer, a Trump supporter, a conspiracy theorist.
I heard from people being ghosted for saying the wrong thing and from people doing the ghosting. A lot of the people I talked to fear conflict so much they avoid those they love and care for because of a difference in opinion on a juicy topic. I heard stories of friends losing respect to each other, judging each other and their intelligence and losing all interest in having any further conversation. Ken’s story of “breaking up” with his friend over a vaccination disagreement is a powerful example of this.
Better ways to talk
Throughout this, I’ve been collecting tools and techniques to de-escalate the conversations. I looked at the ways we get emotionally triggered and techniques that could help us avoid that. I observed my own deeply rooted biases and those of other people. I saw how these biases push us towards conclusions that only partially represent the truth. I discovered ways in which we can become more objective by bringing these biases to light.
I also inserted myself into many conversations online to see if these techniques actually work. One of them started with “Bitch!” and ended with “sincere apologies”.You can read about the full process in an article I published.
Over time, these techniques formed into a method that I’ve been calling “Effective Conversations”. My goal is to help people move away from “us vs. them” and “who’s right and who’s wrong” type of thinking to a place of deep listening and actual solutions.
Effective conversations are the ground for healing our isolation and mental health crisis; for eliminating the illusion of separation that causes us to fight with each other; and for healing our sick world. It’s also the only way to find solutions that work for everyone.
I’m now teaching the first Effective Conversations online course with a small group of people. Let me know if you’re interested in joining one of the future groups.
So, who else should I talk to?
I’d like to interview even more people to get a broader understanding of the conflicts we face. Who should I talk to? Who’s got strong opinions and can’t stop talking about them? Please forward them this text.
Follow me on Twitter @yaelfiner for more juicy conversations.