Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Respectfully and Responsibly Educating Others

by the Weekly Sillimanian | February 6, 2022

With the invention of the internet, there is so much information available for us that it might be too overwhelming to truly figure out what is true or false. Because of this, a lot of people fall victim to sources that feed their confirmation bias, leading to a lot of stressful confrontations both in-person and online.

So, how do we deal with these encounters, and is it worth the effort trying to win them at all?

Before you even attempt to educate others, make sure to have the right intentions. Shaming others for their intellect is never a quality of a valid argument. Develop yourself to be a good debater and never attack the other person ad hominem. Instead, base your points on unbiased evidence from reliable sources. Avoid getting your information from social media and instead, settle for research studies, books, and news outlets.

When you find yourself stuck in a digital skirmish, respond to the other party in a calm but firm manner. Be confident but not arrogant. Exuding confidence indicates your trust and adamance in the information you are giving out. When you slip up and commit mistakes, own up to them and do not forget to acknowledge the other person’s good points. Always keep in mind that this is not about winning the argument, but educating yourself and others.

The present political climate has produced diverse perspectives that often lead to misunderstandings in terms of principles. One would insist that they are more well-versed than the other and that it’s their perspective that should be the status quo. But often if not sometimes, arguments come with an unfounded basis which usually ends in stalemate. One might be holding the truth but did not deliver it properly. This goes to show that possessing a massive amount of facts is not enough. We should also make sure to tone down our intellectual arrogance. When we want people to actively listen and heed to the truth, we should be able to woo their intellect, not striking a blow to it.

Argument experts say that for one to educate the other responsibly especially when dealing with polarized perspectives, some steps need to be taken to establish a rapport or understanding between them. Seth Freeman, an expert on conflict management, had these three Ps for such:

Step 1: Paraphrase. The culprit of many heated arguments is the lack of understanding of the other side’s standpoints. But when educating a person especially in conflicting matters, it should be a must for the two people to determine their specific differences. One can try restating the idea of the other, until the person can say, “That’s exactly what I meant.” This way, the other person will know that you are truly listening and comprehending their ideas. 

Step 2: Praise [or agree]. Find a common ground between your contrasting ideas. Does your friend or loved one think that a politician you deem corrupt and inept is a friend of the masses? Acknowledge that this politician has also made some good contributions to the community. Maintain the flow of the talk with this premise. Raise agreeable points first before going to the next step.

Step 3: Pivot. After acknowledging the viewpoints of the other person and sharing a common ground, you can now discern whether they are interested to hear from you more. Braver Angels, an American nonprofit organization aiming for depolarization of political views, coined the term “pivot,” which means signaling that you are about to offer a new perspective. This can be in a form of transitional devices which you can use to bridge contrasting perspectives. After keeping the flow of the conversation with these devices, you are now ready to offer your own perspective.

When you have followed these steps and the other party still refuses to hear you out, take a deep breath and just leave it be. Trying to reason with people who refuse to keep an open mind will only leave you feeling exhausted and even worse, mentally burnt out. You have done your part. Let them learn to do theirs.

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