Jan 172015

Really Communicating with Political Adversaries

How do you communicate with political adversaries? A very important question, in this day and age of political, religious and ethnic schism and a penchant in far too many individuals and groups to resort to violence to—frankly—get their way, to impose their will.

The problem is currently manifested in America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Terrorism emanating from the Middle East is a huge problem but so is right-wing extremism in America and elsewhere, in my opinion. How do we break through the walls that seem to divide us.

As a moderate-liberal Democrat, I am gradually moving toward respectful dialogue with folks on the right. I am not an expert in conflict resolution, but I would humbly offer these suggestions:

*Resist one’s own tendency to demonize the opposition. Not every individual on the right is, as I see him, a hateful Rush Limbaugh.

*Stand up for your own point of view, but express it in a calm and respectful manner.

*Try to REALLY listen to your political adversary. Avoid interrupting or talking over your adversary. Many cable news commentaries set a poor example in this regard.

*Strive to identify areas of agreement with the adversary. It may not be evident, but the vast majority of Americans do have a core set of positive values which they can agree on, to build consensus on some of the key issues that have harshly divided them.

*When you are challenged on the facts and can’t offer concrete documentation, simply say that you will research the question, and then do so, but with a truly open mind, looking at both sides. Then get back to your adversary. Suggest that he or she also engage in the relevant research. An example: Have increases in the minimum wage led to lasting layoffs—in past years? When this issue arises, I do point out the increased buying power of those at the low end of the wage scale when the minimum wage is raised significantly. The global warning debate also cries out for good faith, objective analysis of the facts—by folks on both sides of the issue.

We cannot force politicians and media types in D.C. to engage in fair-minded and respectful analysis and debate. But at the local level, I believe we can be civil while surmounting the ideological barriers that have divided us.





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