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Improving Conversation on Divisive Topics (Part 2 of 3 Devan Jensen)

It’s incredibly easy to get into arguments on social media on topics like masks, vaccines, immigration, guns, politics.  How do we talk to those with whom we disagree? Devan Jensen had some ideas, on how we can use more charity in difficult conversations.

GT:  Of course, we have almost 100 years of fighting with them. Now, we seem to get along with them pretty well. How do we [talk about divisive topics?] Even in our political discourse, I mean, even in church, should you wear a mask? Should you not wear a mask, vaccine, anti-vaccine? How do we develop that spirit of brotherhood where we’re listening to each other and not fighting with each other?

Devan:  What a tremendous question. If I could answer that very decisively, you can make a million bucks off it, so, I’m going to only just touch on the surface of it. But I have had some engagements like this recently, where I’ve said, “Okay, tell me a little bit where you are, where you’re coming from,” and I’ve listened on social media, that’s my main platform.

GT:  That’s the worst place to be.

Devan:  It is the worst place to be having dialogue.  It’s much better to get in person. So, first of all, if you can get in person and talk with a person. Second of all, if you can express your love and concern, and third, if you can say, “Tell me your story. Tell me why you’ve arrived at this.”  For example, let’s just talk about the mask situation for a minute. What happens is people often go to a place of, “Well, it’s my right, it’s my constitutional right,” and they say…

Devan:  Right, exactly. So, I would probably start with something like this, “Okay, I understand, generally, that you’re concerned about our constitution, and you’re focused on our freedoms, and you don’t want our freedoms to be taken away.”  So, that would be–that’s common ground, we both share. I feel very much the same way. So, can you tell me how wearing a mask takes away your freedom in some way?”  So, maybe we’d start with that.

So, they could kind of kind of articulate, “Well, this is what I’m feeling, this is why I feel this way.”  It almost always goes to the core thing, which is, well, “I’m concerned about my rights in some other area other than masks, and so I’m transferring my concern about the freedoms into the mask thing.”

“Okay, I understand,” or shots or vaccines.

I had a good friend who’s strongly conservative, who said it this way, and I’m quoting him anonymously, because I didn’t ask his permission. But he said, “I am concerned about my freedoms being eroded in a lot of–in some area, but I don’t think masks are an area where my freedoms are being eroded.”

GT:  I don’t think masks were in the constitution.

Devan:  I thought, “That’s pretty, that’s pretty good reasoning.” He thought that through. He thought, “My community well-being is more important than the temporary discomfort I am feeling by putting this mask on or getting a shot in the arm.”  So, I think that he arrived at some good reasoning to help him to sort out those two things and separate them in a way that that didn’t feel threatening to him. So, that’s the kind of dialogue I think we can have with our friends who may be a little bit right or left from where we are.  We all are on some spectrum, and maybe on a spectrum on specific issues, even., there might be.  So, I think it’s helpful to recognize that that we do exist somewhere on a spectrum of political and religious beliefs. If we start there and start having people engage with us and tell their story, it will help us.

GT:  I feel like we’re in a little bit of a minefield here. But, I think these are the kinds of conversations we need to have.  Some other political minefields: immigration, LGBTQ.  Even within the Church, I think racism is a big problem, still. How do we–can you talk about how can we be more charitable for those with whom we disagree?

Devan:  I do like this quote, if I could share this. I kind of prepared some notes ahead of time. Above all, Be Kind. This is from Seven Keys to Successful Conversations, published some years ago by the Church. “Above all, be kind, show Christ-like love.”

Find out what else Devan said.  Do you have any ideas on improving conversation on divisive topics?  Check out our conversation….

Devan Jensen gives advice on how to improve conversation on divisive topics.

Don’t miss our previous conversation with Devan!

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