Be Open To a Conversation Rather Than a Debate

August 5, 2017

It’s difficult to have a conversation with someone who doesn’t hold the same beliefs as you. When you feel strongly about an issue it’s hard to hear someone argue the other side. In this polarized environment, though, it’s never been more necessary.


 Photo: Brooke Cagle by Unplash


In today’s political and social climate, people of opposite ends of the spectrum need to have conversations and relationships. It will be difficult. It will be uncomfortable. It will be important.


Part of my extended family and I don’t see eye to eye on many political issues, but that doesn’t mean I love them any less. It’s hard for us to have conversations about politics but it’s possible. I try to listen to their side and I mean really listen, not listening to find the flaws in their logic. I also know our limits.


Knowing the limits in a conversation with someone who holds an opposing view point is very important. The main limit to watch is when the conversation turns into a debate rather than a discussion. In my experience, conversations that become debates also mean that a once respectful conversation turns disrespectful.


Here are three things to watch out for when having a conversation with someone who has a different viewpoint from you:


  1. When you start saying “well actually” or “that doesn’t sound quite right” during your conversation. This is a sign to the other person that you’ve stopped listening to them. Instead, say something along the line of “okay, I’ve heard (insert fact you feel counters their opinion) what are your thoughts?”

  2. Checking your phone whenever they are talking. As a general courtesy rule, your attention during a conversation should be completely on the other person and not on your phone.

  3. Not asking them about why they believe what they believe. A conversation goes two ways. It should not be one person making a statement than another person making a statement. It should be two people asking each other questions and trying to see the other person's point of view.


Try to have a relationship with people who have different viewpoints, it will help you develop as a person and an intellect.  


What advice do you have about having a conversation with people who have a different viewpoint? Share it in the comments or using #stepupmagazine.


Maggie Campbell is a 19-year-old rising sophomore at Ohio University studying journalism.  Maggie currently serves on the executive board of the 2015-2016 Society of Professional Journalists National Outstanding Campus Chapter.


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