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Quick Guide to Debating the Issues Without Losing Your Sh*T

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October 6, 2014

We’ve all done it before. We are having seemingly harmless conversations with our friends. Then someone who you thought you liked says something way out of line. All of a sudden, you begin using crazy hand gestures, you roll your eyes, and use intelligent words like “stupid” as you mimic your opponent. The reproductive justice movement is no stranger to these kinds of heated conversations.  As I hear conversations among people with regard to reproductive justice, foreign policy, etc. I have heard productive disagreements and some unproductive disagreements. I have included some quick tips below to help us be more effective listeners and speakers.

1.       Speak Calmly

I have noticed that screaming at the top of your lungs creates an atmosphere where everyone holds on to their position even tighter than when they started. I suggest taking a few deep breaths. As our kindergarten teachers taught us, “Use your inside voices”. Don’t get me wrong. Passion is great! Even so, messages can be lost when you are heated. Anger can take away from valid points.

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2.       Clarify the Stances

Have you ever been in a long debate only to realize that you are on the same side? Before starting the debate make sure you fully understand your stance and the stance of the person you are debating. Avoid attaching all the stereotypes that go along with their view to the person. We are individuals that vary despite the groups, organizations, or causes we represent. You may find that you agree on some points.

When you do agree on points, acknowledge those points.

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3.       Avoid Othering

Language like “those people” and “you people” is simply uneffective when speaking with someone who disagrees with you. Let’s be honest. We take offense when others refer to us as “those” and “you all” because it ignores existing differences within the larger group. It also serves to create more divisiveness. It is disrespectful and will do nothing to improve the situation.

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 4.       Allow others to speak, then listen

This is a hard one. Instead of listening to others, we often wait for a short silence to interject. Sometimes we speak while others are mid-sentence. No, but seriously. Think about it this way. Doing justice to the cause requires you to not only speak, but also act as an engaged listener. How can you respond to something that has been said, if you are not listening?

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5.       You are a spokesperson

You are the spokesperson for your belief in this occasion. We often make assumptions about a cause by the kinds of people that believe in the cause. If you are yelling, name calling, and shouting expletives, then that is what the people that disagree with you will remember.

6.       R.E.S.P.E.C.T

We are all human beings. Let’s avoid degrading each other. The point is to come to the same conclusion, agree to disagree, or disagree. None of these requires hurtful language. What are we debating requires mutual respect.

 

 

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