primers and guiding principles
Here are the basics - practice and you will have everything you need to have conversations that are productive and constructive, particularly when discussing issues that are traditionally tough to navigate.
Remember, these conversations are not easy, that’s why they don’t usually happen!
Before you start:
Take a moment for yourself. How are you feeling?
Have a few grounding, deep breaths.
Have a healthy snack, seriously! Research shows that we all function better with a little fuel in us as it helps us to think more clearly.
Set your intention. You are talking, not debating, with another human. You do not have to have all the answers to begin and you do not need to be perfect.
These are the ground rules for any productive conversation:
Be curious and open to learning: Conversation is as much about listening as it is about talking. Listen and be open to hearing all points of view.
Show respect and suspend judgement: Setting judgments aside opens you up to learning from others and makes them feel respected and appreciated.
Find common ground and appreciate differences: Look for common ground you can agree on and appreciate the differences in the beliefs and opinions of others.
Be authentic and welcome that from others: Speak authentically from your personal experience. Personal stories open our hearts. If you don’t have personal experience with having or knowing someone who has had an abortion, you still have a story. How you have experienced the debate, your feelings about it, when you first realised the eighth amendment was a problem, your fears about it etc. Still want some stories to share? We’ve got some links on the next page.
Be purposeful: Notice if what you are conveying is or is not pertinent to the topic at hand. And notice if others are taking the conversation off track. It is okay to not be too strict. After all what we want is good conversation that flows and also builds relationships. Find a balance between being proactive and gentle.
Some good things to keep in mind:
Though this guide is not for engaging ‘extremists’, there are many things we can glean from this talk by self-proclaimed former-extremist Megan Phelps-Roper. What changed her mind? What got her to see things even a little differently? Watch the video and see how she found the simple (but not easy!) principles below as her guide through difficult conversations and ultimately towards a new perspective:
Don’t assume bad intent - people surprise us all the time!
Stay calm - this takes practice and patience, but it’s powerful
Make the argument - be able to logically present your ideas
Be proud of yourself! And grateful to the person who had this conversation with you. Try to sit in that place of appreciation so you’re brain can recognise (and want to repeat) what a really big thing you’ve accomplished.
Forgive yourself for not being perfect and embrace that navigating difficult conversations well is a skill, you get better each time you try. If it didn’t go well then that’s okay, you’ve still planted a seed of change and can go back and nurture it another time.
End it by keeping it open ended - nothing has to be decided or won. Getting someone to hear a story or perspective they hadn’t considered before is a success in itself. You can always say something like, “well thanks for talking to me about this, it’s been on my mind/ or is really important to me. We can always talk about this more some other time!”
You should now have everything you need - so don't get bogged down in the resources,
take the leap and try having one conversation before continuing on to the next level!