November 17, 2017

When Fighting Fire with Fire isn’t Effective, here’s what to Do.

We could spend all day on social media battling those who do not agree with us…

Not even just with trolls but people in our own lives. In the last few years of political upheaval, I’ve discovered that fighting fire with fire just isn’t working. We can have a war of words all day long and make absolutely no progress other than creating bad feelings on both sides.

So what do we do when fighting fire with fire fails to create any change?

We get crafty, that’s what we do.

And I’m not talking about the kind of crafty that involves glue guns or a Bedazzler. I’m talking about the sneaky approach that is all about advocating for what we believe using reason, logic, and compassion to educate and inform rather than attack. Maybe it’s just another, less volatile way of fighting fire with fire. Instead of reacting and going on the attack, we figure out the other person’s core belief system and use it to get them to see our side.

Puzzled about how this works?

If someone’s core belief system is Christian, and they identify as conservative, a traditionally liberal argument is only going to inflame them. They’ll be ready to deny whatever it is we say simply because of stubbornness and maybe even cognitive dissonance. Simply put, because they see their core beliefs as being the very opposite of liberalism, they won’t be open to hearing anything we have to say. So we can choose to avoid the conflict entirely, or we can use that belief system to get them to listen. We can advocate for the thing that we believe and post Biblical verses that support our position.

For people who have a conspiracy theory mindset, we don’t send them our liberal article from its left-leaning source. Instead, we look for full video links that show the entire context of a thing. For example, I’ve often heard the argument that President Trump making fun of handicapped people was taken out of context. Fine, post the full video and not the clip so they can see. The same with the recent video showing Trump talking about hiring a beautiful teenager. Post the full video and not clips so these people can’t say that it was edited or taken out of context in some way without looking like a fool.

Dealing with another political party? Instead of posting links from the opposition, find people who side with them on everything else who agree about this. For example, there are many Republicans who have openly come out against our president’s policies. Instead of sharing a Democrat’s view of Trump, share a Republican’s. Show that even people on the same side are allowed to speak out as their conscience dictates and why. It’s the same with celebrities. If one typically leans left or right but expresses a differing opinion, share that with their fans. Let them see that it’s okay to identify as conservative and yet feel differently about particular issues.

We have to stop going on the personal attack or even attacking the deep, underlying belief system. We don’t have to attack at all. There are peaceful ways of promoting our own beliefs while helping others understand why we believe the way we do and how some of it coincides with their own belief systems. We can even offer to sit down with them and offer to discuss our divergent beliefs and look for common ground by listening to the other person.

We don’t have to go to war on other people’s deeply held belief systems. Instead, we can find a way to convince them using those systems. We can see what lies at the heart of their belief. Maybe a fear of big government and a desire to keep their guns has roots in a traumatic event in their past, or maybe they’re against pro-choice because of a deeply personal loss. Maybe they’re pro-life because of a deeply personal event. Maybe they have health issues that make them strongly advocate for universal healthcare.

We don’t know until we actually listen to where they’re coming from. It’s okay to ask why they feel the way they do, although they’re under no obligation to answer us. But we can try to find common ground and a deeper understanding. And if that doesn’t work, it’s okay for us to say that we can agree to disagree. It’s even okay to say that the differences are too divergent to continue a relationship. But we need to find a way to advocate and love rather than attack and hate, for everyone’s sake.




Author: Crystal Jackson
Image: Elephant Journal/Intstagram
Editor: Travis May
Copy Editor: Catherine Monkman
Social Editor: Travis May

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