How to talk with folks who didn’t vote the way you did.

I have a friend, I hope she’s still my friend, who is still angry at me because I was and continue to be a supporter of Bernie Sanders. She thinks that its people like me that are responsible for the current mess we’re in.

Screen Shot 2017-01-29 at 4.26.40 PMI’m doing my best to put my hurt feelings aside and not engage in a downward spiral with this person. She’s given me an opportunity to use my words carefully to increase the peace.

There is a  tactic, what I like to think of as verbal kung fu, that I learned years ago when I attended the Climate Reality Leadership Training. The goal back then was to “win the conversation” on climate change with your Fox News watching climate denying relative that you spend time with over the holidays.

These de-escalation skills are also useful when speaking with folks have a different viewpoint than you. I’ve practiced and taught skills over the years when training for Non-Violent Direct Action and with my Peaceful Resistance workshops.

Here’s a few tips:

Stay underneath. Let go of your urge to be “right”. Always remember, you are in charge of how you respond. Feel your feet on the ground, take a nice deep breath. Slow down. Suspend judgement.  Think cool head, warm heart.

Listen. Listen to understand, do not listen to reply. People want to be listened to. Don’t you? It won’t kill you to listen deeply to someone you might disagree with. You don’t have to change their minds. You can listen. Try it!

Look for points of agreement. They are there. You’ll find them when you’re listening deeply.  Do you both care about kids? About clean water? Infrastructure? Focus on issues, not personalities.

Use personal stories to illustrate a situation. Don’t quote news sources, make your point from your own experiences.

Tone and body language. Make sure both your voice and your body are calm and non-threatening.  To be able to verbally de-escalate takes patience, tact and the ability to control one’s own pride and ego.  Think of it as a mindfulness practice. And whatever you do, don’t say “calm down”! No one wants to hear that.

Let go of binary thinking. Yes/No, Right/Wrong. The world has more dimensions than just two, there are many shades of gray and of all colors!  Its useful to learn to dance in that paradox.

This former CIA officer has an interesting perspective for you to consider.





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