How To Communicate Under #45
So we’ve unfollowed and/or unfriended our social media “friends” with opposing political beliefs. We didn’t do it because we’re sore losers, we did it because what’s political didn’t just *feel* like personal attacks on our humanity, they actually *were* attacks on our humanity. It can feel futile and demoralizing to spend time on social media trying to convince others of our worth -- but some of us still do. At best, during these exchanges, people that you already know to understand will like it and move on. At worst, our cousin will slide in the comments to say “actually…” or, even worse, “#alllivesmatter”. This is not a conversation and we are no further forward than we were before.
Every day we have an opportunity to step closer to the answer that will bring the most good to the most people and generate liberty and justice for all. In these times, are you contributing your own unique and important perspectives and experiences to the collective or are you getting lost in the comments? What is your goal and how are you getting there?
Everyone's voice is critically important for the future of our world. Yes, even the voices that we personally disagree with. Meaning can be hard to find these days, but meaningful conversation and action might be the only things that can get us out of this mess.
Here are a few tips on how to engage in meaningful conversation under #45.
1. DON'T LOSE YOURSELF IN SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS
Many times, people will only share something on the internet if they are sure that they are right. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that they actually *are* right. Before you post something, take a minute to ask yourself if you are 100% sure that you know the whole story. If you do, you should probably save your post, write a book, and get that $$$. If you don't, try to phrase your important ideas in a way that invite REAL dialogue and, when it comes, participate genuinely. The worst conversation is between two people who disagree but are sure they are correct.
2. CONTINUOUSLY REVIEW YOUR PURITY OF MOTIVE
Why are you saying what you’re saying? Are you trying to add your important perspective to a conversation in a way that will move it forward? Are you trying to hurt or shame someone? Is that the result you want to have, even accidentally? How does this help?
3. CHALLENGE IDEAS, NOT PEOPLE
A person with opposing beliefs believes those things because of a life experience or perspective that you do not have. If they have positions that are hateful or cause harm to others, that is very sad, but under no circumstances will your vilification of them change that. Challenge their ideas, certainly, but leave them out of it, because you need to...
4. ACCEPT THAT IDENTITY IS ONGOING (YOURS & EVERYONE ELSE'S)
You’ve heard it before: a public figure’s comments from months or years ago are unearthed via video or twitter, and you can hear the countdown start to when they will say “I was young. I’ve grown as a person since then.” This is annoying, yes, but it can also be true. You are not your opinion and neither is anyone else. If you don’t believe that identity is ongoing and that people can change, why are you engaging in a conversation in the first place? There’s a very strong chance that everyone has more to learn.
5. DON'T BE AFRAID TO BE WRONG
By process of elimination, we are more equipped to get to the right answer by moving through the wrong. Often, people don’t speak up about because they think they don’t know enough to have an opinion -- I want to stop this in its tracks. Start with where you are; if you know you don’t know: ask, read, listen. If you have a thought on a topic, put it out in the world for discussion, owning your vulnerability and the perfectly ok probability that you are wrong. You don’t have to know it all to engage.
6. THINK OUTSIDE OF YOUR NARRATIVE
Freedom is a constant struggle because people keep seeing and fighting for freedom solely in their own context, not realizing that all of our freedoms are tied together. If someone tells you that something you've said is offensive, try not to become defensive. Say thank you and spend a moment thinking outside of the narratives of yourself and those you know. Read and share, engage in a conversation, stand in solidarity, go to a march for a cause that does not personally affect you. Make the world a little bit stronger and you'll see those people again when they come to stand up for you.
WORDS: LISA NWANKWO