We're all alike. Who wouldn't mind sitting in the bleachers enthusiastically cheering the players on the field? But now is not the time to be a spectator. Now is the time to make our voice heard and get into the arena.
The government has tested our free will with the threat of death caused by a virus, this time. Who can deny that my neighbor, parent, an ill child struggling with cancer or any loved one should be careless with this virus? No one. But does it necessitate use of soft tyranny as our mentor, Mark Levin, aptly calls it? I'm getting ready for winning the hearts and minds of my friends, family and neighbors between now and November and I want you to join me. Here are a few ideas for engaging people in a dignified dialogue.
1. Be inspired, and you will be inspirational to others. Cynicism is the default for not knowing facts or not having studied your issue so you can speak intelligently. Instead, be prepared. Pick whatever topic you're most passionate about; our Constitution, Bill of Rights, Trade, Fiscal, whatever, then take your prepared position. Learn everything you can about the issue you're most passionate about, cite history, facts, books, articles, statistics, heroes and how it supports your opinion. Have thoughtful questions ready to promote respectful dialogue, don't attack (even if they do).
2. You may know the topic your friend or family member is passionate about. If you don't, pick an item you think your debating friend is interested in, then Prepare and Practice, Practice, Practice. For example, I have a family member who I love dearly, yet she is adamant about the support of women's abortion rights. One day we were chatting, and I asked her why she was so passionate about this issue. I was surprised to learn her answer, and it helped me to understand her position, which enabled me to construct a thought provoking dialogue. One that, with more discussion, I hope to move the needle a little further in support of life each time we discuss it.
3. Think critically. Ask questions. Many of us maintain the political, social, financial philosophies of our parents and grandparents. Hold the mirror up to your face and ask, "Is that true?" "Why believe that?" "Do you think that position has had any negative consequences?" Debate with yourself. Then debate your partner. Once you engage that person you might be surprised how shallow their position is, and here is where you can make progress enlightening them.
4. Avoid escalation into an argument, those are best left to the attorneys who are arguing legal issues. Emotional sentiments have ruined many a Thanksgiving Dinner. If making your heated point is worth alienating half of your family, that's your choice. My belief is life's too short, and besides, I like my family, despite their liberal views.
5.Consider who you're talking with. Is it a boomer, a millennial, a high school junior, a college student? It's not a one size fits all conversation. Ask questions, hear them out, then state your position framed around their place in life or political view. Consider telling a true story. Here's a personal one I save for those who'd use me as a sounding board to bash our country: "Oh...I see what you're saying. You know, recently I was speaking with my dear retired neighbor, Elena, we're good friends. She's so sweet but buys into the alphabet tv channels gloom and doom. I asked her some questions today about the effect on her state of mental and physical health listening to the daily diet of bad news, gloom, and doom. She agreed to think about taking a short "fast" from the news. She did say something positive though, about being a 1st generation American from Mexico. When she was a young woman, and people were celebrating Cinco de Mayo, she asked her mom why they didn't celebrate it. Her mom's reply, 'What did Mexico ever do for us? Nothing!' Maybe that's why they came to America-legally, worked hard, had a beautiful family, and made a happy, prosperous life."
6.Use wit. And remember, cynicism is a poor substitute for topical humor. But not the kind of joke that would distance your sparring partner but rather lighten things up a bit. If off the cuff humorous irony isn't your thing, find something funny from the internet. Humor, well-timed, helps release a tense moment. Think Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Mark Twain.
7. Take your friend, relative, neighbor's views seriously, treat their opinions with respect and honest interest. Just by doing that, you'll score some points and leave an opening for the next friendly debate.
Remember nothing big is ever accomplished overnight, imagine if Paul Revere had sat back and offered doubt and frustration and nothing else! Nope, he got on his horse and yelled at the top of his lungs...well, you know the rest of the story. Let's get out there and make some noise, see you all Friday!