There are certain types of conversations that are inherently more squirm-inducing then others. I’ve already talked about one example ubiquitous in the workplace – the challenge of giving and receiving constructive feedback.
Another type of uncomfortable conversation is a discussion with someone who holds a completely opposing stance on a given issue. This lack of interaction with people who hold differing views has received a lot of attention in political reporting and analysis over the past few years, and is often cited as a major contributor to great cultural divides. But the topic at hand doesn’t have to be a hot button social or political issue to make us feel uncomfortable. Even disagreement over the best course of action for a small group project or the selection of a leader for a new team can cause blood pressures to rise.
All around us we see examples of how NOT to have a productive dialogue between opposing viewpoints, ranging from passive-aggressive conflict avoidance (perhaps with a side of behind-the-back gossip and venting) to full-blown arguments consisting solely of gross generalizations or ad hominem attacks.
While negative examples are aplenty, we don’t often see examples of the RIGHT way to have respectful discussions between opposing viewpoints – but I recently came across an excellent podcast that shows just that. I highly recommend Dylan Marron’s podcast “Conversations with People Who Hate Me”, in which he facilitates or takes part in discussions with people who posted nasty comments about one another on social media. While the substance of these podcasts does focus on controversial social and political issues, I recommend paying more attention to the respectful, non-confrontational, open style of communication that Dylan creates and practices.
While these podcasts include some uncomfortable moments and touch on big issues, it is refreshing and inspiring to see that people can still communicate about diametrically opposing positions without resorting to playground-level insults or throwing a drink in someone’s face and storming away. Check it out and let me know what you think!