“Although there exist many thousand subjects for elegant conversation, there are persons who cannot meet a cripple without talking about feet.” -Ernest Bramah
Why do some of us so enjoy talking about divisive issues? The thrill of the conflict which inevitably arises? The feeling of power that comes from starting said conflict? Or, when talking with like-minded people, is it the good feelings of having your own opinion repeated by others? These feelings are dangerously alluring for some of us. They provide quick hits of dopamine and maybe even adrenaline, but these feelings do not persist and the actions which provide these pleasurable chemical hits can cause lasting damage to relationships and, as we see in the news every day, to the world.
Though having conversations with others is important, equally important is the topic being discussed. Let’s be real here, it’s much more likely that a disabled person would feel more comfortable talking about their disability with a good friend than with a new acquaintance. Humans are creatures of emotion before we are creatures of logic. We respond in predictable ways when our beliefs are challenged by a stranger. Jumping right into sensitive topics such as race, religion, politics and other deeply personal issues is a recipe for defensiveness and conflict.
It’s not helping anything, and it may be making things a good deal worse.
I am not suggesting that we never talk about these divisive issues, I simply am suggesting that we form a connection with our conversation partner before bringing up these subjects.
How do we form a connection? By finding out common interests and talking shop! You both like water skiing? Talk about your latest trip. Both into computers? Talk about your builds. Start by finding something that makes both of you happy and have at it. Make a friend and only then delve into some of these heavier subjects. You’ll listen to each other more carefully. Your defensive walls will be lowered and a dialogue can take place.
Humans are not wired to easily accept a change to their worldview. We are, however, wired to stick to our tribes and view outsiders as less than human. We label them and dismiss them. The internet has made it possible for ALL humans to be a member of the same tribe. It’s time to start making that dream a reality.
How do you think we can make this happen? Where do we start?