How to talk to people not on our side

What are your assumptions when you meet people different to you? Get a pen and write them down. Recognise them and make it your mission to keep them in check. We all have them. When given too much energy, it makes my face do this:

Red squinting face

Each new conversation has potential. Never assume because of someone’s class, race, faith, job you can’t work together. Everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about.

When talking to people who vote differently to you, worship celebrities instead of Gods, live in mansions while you kip on mum’s sofa; share your story. Ask them to share theirs. Allow yourself to see if you have anything in common. It’s likely that you both have been through struggle and joy. You both love your brothers, sisters, partners, more than anything else in the whole world.

Talking to people who think differently to you

Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Ask people open questions. Why do you do X? Who taught you Y? Avoid asking closed questions which give yes/no answers.
  • Share your story and genuinely listen to theirs.
  • Find any common threads you both have and focus on them.
  • Difference does not mean opposition; speak in an empathetic way that seeks to understand the person opposite.
  • Ask what is worrying them and listen: a lot of people are not looking for solutions, they want you to hear them. If you can listen, people are more likely to meet with you again.

People in the middle

Over time, through relationships we can encourage people not on our side, to see other points of view. To move the needle from what matters to them individually, to think about the collective.

Some people will never be on our side. They consciously act each day to prevent justice, peace and human rights. Those people are our enemy and why we build our power. But there is a large majority of people in the middle, who are uncertain what to do. There is a huge amount of undecided potential.

If you can’t talk to people that think differently to you and persuade them, you can’t change anything. Yes it is difficult, yes it’s unglamorous, but it must be done. We need curiosity and hope in all human potential. People that talk to one another are less likely to hurt each another, and that brings us closer to peace. In the end, if we don’t believe in each other, what do we have?