Human beings have the ability to communicate today with more people across the world than any generation before. We can talk to people on the other side of the globe with almost no wait time. We can share ideas with people who live cultures that have evolved completely differently from ours.
There is so much we can learn from talking to others. Comparing and compromising on social, political and personal issues is a great way to move forward as global community. It is how humanity progresses as a species and learns to encompass every human being into a functioning unified society. It is going to be a driving force behind world peace, when the day comes.
In order to make those strides, people have to know how to converse with those they disagree with. People need to be able to carry out fair and open debates about things that some people may consider to be a definitive part of them.
This can be frustrating and, when done improperly, can cause more harm than good. But, for all the feelings that might get hurt, it is the only way to unite the peoples of the world.
So go out, talk to people who have experienced a completely different life from you, and keep a few key things in mind while you do.
BE PREPARED TO CHALLENGE YOUR OWN BELIEFS
The way you see the world has been constructed by your personal experience of it. Where you were born, who your parents were, what your community was like, what your government did. Some – if not many – of the things you believe may not have been your own decision and the things that were will still be heavily influenced by your own relationship with the world around you. Understand that other people may have views so different to your own they feel alien. Listen to their logic. Explore your own views using theirs as a grounding point and see what you learn from that.
BE CLEAR IN YOUR ARGUMENTS
When you make a point, ensure that what you are saying is clear and makes sense. Whoever you’re talking to won’t have the same experiences as you, they won’t have the same background or understanding of your society. If they don’t understand something, make an effort to explain it in clearer terms.
CONSIDER ONLY THE POINTS THEY HAVE PUT FORWARD
Respond as academically as you can. Look at exactly what they have said in constructing your responses. Don’t think about what something could mean or what it might suggest. Just look at what it actually says. Don’t ever put words in someone else’s mouth. If you don’t understand something, ask. Don’t assume that they mean something that might be entirely in your head and, most of all, don’t then start arguing against a point that you have imagined all by yourself. You’ll just look stupid.
NEVER RESORT TO PERSONAL ATTACKS
When you’re debating with someone who can’t understand – or won’t accept – something you’re trying to explain, it will only undermine what you have to say if you lash out at them. No matter how rude or impetuous or annoying or even abusive they might get themselves, never sink to their level. Don’t let it escalate. Remain calm and make sure that your comments are always reasonable.
ACCEPT WHEN SOMEONE WILL NEVER LISTEN AND LET IT GO
Sadly, some people from all cultures and ideologies hold very deep seated beliefs and take offence when these are challenged. Sometimes, that challenge might take the form of a simple disagreement, regardless of whether or not the person who voiced the opposing opinion was trying to change anyone’s mind. Some people just aren’t prepared to debate fairly. Some people would rather ignore all the benefits that can come from a healthy conversation with someone who doesn’t agree with them. Don’t let yourself worry about those people. If they’re so stuck in an outdated world view that they refuse to consider any other option, sometimes it’s better just to leave them to it.
Author Bio – Kirstie Summers is journalist whose day job takes her to all the most interesting places and events in South London. She also freelances for a number of sites and publications, from gaming and literature reviews to creative fiction. She lives in London and spends as much of her free time as possible making the most of being in such a diverse city. She keeps one day a week to herself to swim, relax and keep the stress of the world at bay.