Talking to people you dislike
November 8, 2019 6:40 AM   Subscribe

Looking for recommendations on books (audio is fine) or podcasts that tackle the issue of talking to people who you disagree with or openly dislike.

So much of our discourse has been turned over to social media where people simply shout past each other. I want to learn how to actually speak to someone I disagree with without simply calling them a name and stomping away. I've realized that rather than deal with someone's opinions or actions I'd rather just avoid them altogether because of my struggles with anxiety. I never learned how to just talk to people I disagree with and I'm looking for strategies to engage people thoughtfully and not have a conversation turn into an explosion of anger.
posted by photoslob to Human Relations (6 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
I highly recommend Nonviolent Communication. It got me to understand why having a conversation with someone who disagreed with me could get me to the point of an “explosion of anger” (well put). It’s about a lot more than that, but it will shed a lot of light on the dynamic.
posted by sallybrown at 7:00 AM on November 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

My father is, like, a genius at this, and I've been watching him for years. What I think his trick is, is - he starts from a place of respect for the inherent humanity of the person. Not respect for their ideas as such - especially if he disagrees with them - but respect for the fact that they are a thinking and feeling human being, who has a common humanity with him, with a whole history of highs and lows and of good and bad days and of struggles and successes that has shaped them into the person they are. They're not just, like, a dong-butt who's a dong-butt for the sake of being a dong-butt - they are a person who may be doing dong-butt things, but they may also have had their father die when they were only two and they maybe haven't had a decent night's sleep for three years and they may have been hearing bullshit from a racist uncle since they were a kid and didn't know any better.

If he does get into a socio-political discussion with them, he also isn't trying to convert them - a lot of times he is having a discussion for the sake of hammering out all the details of the idea itself. He is seeking to learn more about "what would lead a person to agree with an idea like that" and to clarify for them "here is why a person might disagree with your position".

Or, sometimes he'll just skip the socio-political stuff altogether and find something else to talk about. If he's pretty sure he won't enjoy the political discussion, or that it won't get anywhere, he'll spark a conversation about sports or music instead. Or he'll just ask them about what they do - we were on the ferry to Ellis Island once and we had to wait at the Liberty Island dock for 20 minutes first, and Dad got bored and went to go talk to the captain - started asking him about how long he'd been at the job, what the boat traffic was like, whether he lived in the area, stuff like that - and ended up getting the guy so drawn into a conversation that he almost made us late for our scheduled departure.

I realize I haven't talked much about what Dad says. But that's just it - it's not that he has scripts. It is all in how he sees other people, and in his natural curiosity. Instead of seeing it as "I disagree with you/I actively dislike you, but I need to talk to you", he sees them as "I disagree with you on this issue, but you're still a person and I'm curious about who you are and what's your life like."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:01 AM on November 8, 2019 [47 favorites]

Sounds like you might want "Conversations With People Who Hate Me" by Dylan Marron.

He is also the creator of the Every Single Word Tumblr.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 7:02 AM on November 8, 2019 [2 favorites]

Breaking Through Gridlock
posted by bq at 7:55 AM on November 8, 2019

The Ezra Klein show (episodes with conservatives)
With Friends Like These
posted by catquas at 11:45 AM on November 8, 2019

I show Celeste Headlee’s “10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation” to my students at the beginning of each semester. It’s short, but everyone always cites it as being one of the most formative texts we interact with in the course.
posted by WaspEnterprises at 9:14 PM on November 8, 2019 [5 favorites]

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