I Had A Conversation With A Trump Supporter To Try To Find Common Ground…It Lasted 3 Hours
I recently had a conversation with a well-known YouTuber and Trump Supporter, Dr. Karlyn Borysenko. The goal was to have a civilized conversation, try to understand each other, and possibly find common ground.
The conversation lasted 3 hours.
Here’s the proof:
My main takeaway from this discussion was:
We must get outside your echo chamber and attempt to have civilized, respectful conversations with people we disagree with.
There were quite a few additional lessons I learned from that discussion that may help you navigate your next difficult conversation in your life. Let me know which of these tips resonate for you and which ones you disagree with.
#1. Have a conversation with someone you disagree with, where you ask them curious questions
- Don’t try to debate them or tell them they’re wrong.
- Embracing curiosity in the discussion detaches you from desiring a specific outcome, and it also removes ego from the conversation as you aren’t trying to win.
- Practice active listening to understand (I.e., reflecting back what is said, ask for clarification, summarize, be patient, stay neutral, etc.)
- Recognize that being curious is a form of being courageous.
#2. When having conversations, discern whether you are trying to be right or attempting to understand, as you cannot do both
This is a lesson I learned from the author of Cure For Stupidity, Eric Bailey, who constantly asks, which are you going to choose? Ego or understanding? If we are so focused on being right, there is no room for curiosity, no room for understanding, and no room to find common ground.
#3. Acknowledge other people’s experiences even if they disagree with yours
- When you ignore someone’s experience, you are communicating that they don’t exist in this world
- When you validate someone’s experience, you are communicating that you see them for who they are
- You see each other’s humanity, and that is where the healing can begin
- If you want to change someone’s beliefs, you must first be willing to change their experiences, as taught by the Oz Principle:
#4. Do not conflate all people that disagree with you into a single demographic.
Try to see the person as an individual instead of grouping them with everyone else to fit your narrative.
Trump supporters may be at the same rally, but that doesn’t mean they all agree on the same policies and direction of their movement or even have the same values.
You could say the same thing about a group of people at a BLM protest, as some people may identify themselves as staunch democrats. In contrast, others subscribe to more socialist democratic ideals that Bernie and AOC represent like me. We are all there for similar reasons, but we don’t all agree on everything.
By seeing the person as an individual, you then aren’t making assumptions that they believe certain stances that they never said they agreed with. Find out what they stand for and what they do not support.
The Trump Supporter I spoke with disagrees with the people that carry Confederate and Nazi flags around or sling antisemitic and racist insults at people. She believes that is a loud, small fringe that gets media coverage due to their extreme points of view. She knows many Trump supporters that don’t agree with those racist ideologies. They feel even more ostracized when they are called racists and grouped with these extremists.
#5. Recognize when you are describing yourself as the hero in your own story
Identify if you have painted an entire group of people as the villains in your story to make yourself the hero.
Ask with curiosity, are they really “evil” or just have a different point of view?
If the answer is that they have a different perspective, then practice empathy and understanding, as difficult as that may be to do.
#6. If that person you disagree with triggers you too much for you to have that conversation, then maybe you are not ready, so don’t force it
The same goes for having a conversation with someone else with drastically different political beliefs than you. They may not be ready to have the conversation you are prepared to have, so you must be patient. These conversations are especially true with family members where you want to have political debates during the holidays, yet those are the least opportune times to have them.
How Can You Have More Of These Difficult Conversations?
- Suppose you don’t know anyone you drastically disagree with and want to have a civilized conversation with someone with a different political affiliation. There are organizations like Braver Angels that facilitate respectful discussions between the left and right.
You can also put out on social media that you are looking for someone representing a different perspective to have a conversation with and see who volunteers. My friend, Louise Wo, did this back in July of 2020. She ended up having a conversation with someone she knew from her past who had extremely conservative religious views and posted these extreme stances on FB. These types of posts made Louise cringe, so she stepped into that discomfort and invited this person to have a discussion with her. They ended up having a 2.5-hour conversation.
Recognize the power of having difficult conversations. Look at the story of Daryl Davis, a Blues Musician, who was able to 200 Ku Klux Klan members to give up their robes through simply having a respectful dialog, showing up with empathy and compassion.
Recognize that these conversations are not easy. They take a great deal of patience and understanding.
You have to be open to having your mind change.
You have to be open to being wrong.
Most importantly, you have to remember that when the other person disagrees with you, they are not attacking you or denying your experience.
If we can attempt to do these experiments, step out of our current echo chambers and progressive/conservative bubbles and be uncomfortable.
Maybe we can start to have a dialog with one another.
Perhaps we can begin to rebuild some trust and respect that has been lost over the past four years, if not longer.