The Best Way to Foster Positive Conversation on Controversial Issues

The Best Way to Foster Positive Conversation on Controversial Issues

Ayah Mufleh, Freshman Staff Writer

In these past few years, many formative issues have shaped our lives and relationships with family and peers. Whether it be the most recent election cycle, COVID-19 and all it entailed, religion as it pertains to recent legislation, the actions of the presidential administration that preceded our current one- all of these topics have reached our homes and dinner tables. These conversations have sometimes worked to foster healthy, productive debates, but often have erupted into counterproductive wars of morality and ethics. Some people find it best not to have these conversations at all, deciding that topics of religion and politics should not be discussed in order to maintain happiness. But is avoidance the best way to handle controversy? Isn’t there a purpose to having these types of discussions? 

 “Participating in more controversial conversations can be beneficial as they can bring light to a situation which you may find important, and they can spread awareness. However, these conversations lose their purpose as they fade more into being arguments rather than productive conversations, states freshman student Ava Flowers. Meanwhile, freshman Adam Pogacnick differed in his opinion: “I agree that these conversations can sometimes help both sides understand each other and come to a compromise, but it could often be misinterpreted and each side could get into a larger argument that gets everyone nowhere.” The reality is that these conversations can be had in a manner that’s respectful, resourceful, and enlightening. Here’s how: 

 

You have two ears and one mouth, listen before you talk:   According to The Important Cite editors, “Communicating well consists of two parts: expressing yourself and listening to others.” Unfortunately, states the site, “many people forget the second part.” Often, we are so anxious to express our own viewpoints and beliefs that we fail to listen to the opinions of others, subconsciously waiting for that person to finish talking in order to express our own personal point.  In making the effort to genuinely listen and interpret what your counterpart is arguing, you are able to make a far more constructive opinion. The article continues  to explain that listening reduces misunderstandings, eliminates conflict, encourages empathy, and builds trust. 

Let’s keep our feelings out of it:  This aspect is one of the hardest elements of them all: trying to abstain from moral outrage.  Although the debate being had is one of passion and sincere sentiment, it is important to keep personal feelings just that,personal.  In the era of social media, it is very easy to take the conversation beyond the bounds of personal conjecture and into the unforgiving realms of the Internet. Although the opinions of others do have the power to stir rage within us all, learning to control these feelings will make you a far better communicator in all aspects, not just topics of controversy.  

Wait, what?  Building a mutual ground is”, one of the seven components covered in the Seven Main Components of a Constructive Conversation (Kataria 2018) is fundamental to start a controversial conversation.  This allows for a more respectful, and less heated argument. Essentially, the goal is to come to some sort of an agreement within the topic, or a certain aspect of it. Try to learn, not debate. One must also be mindful of being tolerant and open-minded.  

After all, these issues are controversial, which automatically insinuates that they may not be easy to bring up or discuss. However, if you keep this information in mind before going to your next family gathering, or reading the comments of that trending video, discussing these issues will create less tension and will ultimately create positive change.

 

Works Cited

Kataria, Vishal. “The 7 Components of a Constructive Conversation.” Medium, Ascent Publication, 14 Nov. 2018, https://medium.com/the-ascent/the-7-components-of-a-constructive-conversation-f3598072a5b6.

“10 Reasons Why Listening Is Important.” The Important Site, 28 Mar. 2021, https://theimportantsite.com/10-reasons-why-listening-is-important