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The Right Way to Talk across Divides

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https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-right-way-to-talk-across-divides/

scientificamerican.com

The Right Way to Talk across Divides
In the wake of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, three longtime friends-author David Blankenhorn, family therapist Bill Doherty and family research scholar David Lapp-were bothered by the animosity that seemed to have grown exponentially between Democrats and Republicans. The divide went beyond differing opinions on candidates and policies, they believed.

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Constructive engagement

Constructive engagement

Constructive engagement involves cultivating goodwill between the parties involved.

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Fishbowl discussions

Fishbowl discussions

This exercise involves members of one party sitting in a circle with the other group sitting around them. The outside group listens quietly while the inside group answers a set of questions.

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Disagreement

We regularly find ourselves engaging with people whose core beliefs and values differ from our own. We might want to convince them to adopt our point of view, but this can lead to unproductive conf...

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Improving conversational receptiveness

It involves using language that signals real interest in the other person's views.

  • When people appear receptive, others find their argument more persuasive.
  • R...

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Receptive words and phrases

Signs of receptiveness:

  • Acknowledgment: "I understand that..." or "I believe you're saying..."
  • Hedging: It is indicating some uncertai...

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Disagreements with a huge polarizing effect

Disagreements with a huge polarizing effect

It is common to disagree with peers, friends, family members and even strangers. Normally, it is harmless banter and one gets along fine with people with a different taste in pizza or a basketball ...

Anxiety and threat during heated discussions

Divisive topics, especially politics and religion, are by definition loaded with subjectivity and have no worldwide consensus.

This creates an inherent threat in the participant, as the moral, religious, and political values start to lose ground, creating anxiety and extreme reactions, like unfriending or blocking the person having a different point of view.

Different views: right vs wrong

Different moral values make the person view the discussion as a right versus wrong or good versus evil fight, in which it is natural to make an enemy out of the other person, who is now being looked at in a different light.

Philosophy and truth

We think philosophy has a role to play in identifying and correcting the disconnect between perception and reality with regard to politicians’ trustworthiness. By providing a theory of lying and tr...

Augustine on lying

Augustine (354-430) was one of the first to define a lie explicitly as the intent to deceive.

Augustine argues that lying is not permissible regardless of the circumstances that provoked the lie.

Kant on lying

Kant defines a lie as an “intentionally untruthful declaration”.

Kant identifies truthfulness as an utterance that accurately represents one’s thoughts (including one’s beliefs), regardless of whether those thoughts are themselves accurate.
Kant argues that lying is not permissible, but he allows for engaging in deception through careful word choice or evasion.

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The danger of the polarized mind

The danger of the polarized mind

The so-called 'polarized mind' is defined as a fixation on a single point of view while excluding all contrary opinions. 

This fixation will often result in mindlessness, which ma...

Factors leading to a polarized mind

Fear and anxiety are two main factors that can lead to having a polarized mind. This is to say, whenever people feel extreme fear, they tend to be defensive towards others. 

Moreover, this kind of behavior can be recognized in extremists who, as a result of their own trauma, end up wanting the total control.

Polarization today

Nowadays, polarization has enabled the revival of authoritarianism, a real threat to our society. 

In front of such danger, the dialogue between people sharing contrary points of view can prove extremely useful, as it allows individuals to become more open-minded and, therefore, to find solutions in order to fight the danger of the polarized mind.