When Arguing Over Value Issues, Sometimes Facts and Truth Don’t Matter

Next time you get into an argument with someone, especially if it is about politics/religion/value issues, remember that sometimes facts and truth don’t matter. That’s not what the argument is usually about. Instead:

1. Listen

Hear them out without interrupting (but only if you actually care about them, and what they think).

2. If you disagree…

If you disagree, politely say something like, “I hear what you’re saying and, although I don’t agree with everything you said, I appreciate the time you took to tell me about your thoughts on the issue.”

3. Do you want to say something?

If you want to tell them why you disagree say something like, “would you care to hear my thoughts on the topic?”

4. If they don’t want to listen…

If they say no, then you can choose whether to continue the conversation. If you decide not to, then you won’t waste your time because their mind is already closed. You can say something like, “thank you for your honesty; if you change your mind and would like to continue this conversation, let me know.” You can then change the subject, or politely leave. If you decide to try anyway, there is always a chance you might make a difference, you just know in advance it’ll be an uphill challenge.

5. What if they want to listen?

If they say yes, keep your arguments tactful, and when you challenge their beliefs remember that if you challenge their perception of who they are, or a value instead of a fact, they may become entrenched. 

Also, because they said that they wanted to hear your thoughts, as long as they don’t feel personally attacked, you can gently remind them of this if they interrupt (only works if you didn’t interrupt — you’ll get called out on hypocrisy). 

When you are done, make sure you affirm the relationship, and then invite the other person to share their thoughts on what you just said, and let them know that if they need time to think about it that is okay too (last part isn’t always necessary or important, but can be if someone really is considering what you said and might be on the verge of changing their mind).

6. Use your own voice, and good luck!

This doesn’t work 100% of the time, but it usually works a lot more often than starting with, “let me tell you why you’re wrong” (that certainly feels good though, but rarely makes a positive difference in that person’s life).

Finally, remember to speak with your own voice. If the words I used, above, don’t sound like something you’d say, find your own way to say it. When your words are genuine, others will know and appreciate your candor.

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