In columns one and two, we were having a discussion with “Uncle Steve” who represents anyone we disagree with on an important issue. We listened to him and then we took our turn explaining our point of view.
But one minute into our turn, Uncle Steve is already interrupting. Expect pushback when you express your point of view. Here are some tips to avoid falling over:
- If you get interrupted before you can explain your stance, try telling Uncle Steve, “I think where I’m coming from will be clearer, if I explain it more. Here’s what you might not be taking into account…” You will probably have to do this more than once.
- If he disputes your facts, offer to show him the citation, if you can find it. Don’t you love the Internet? If you think he should read a particular article or book, feel free to recommend it, but don’t expect too much.
- If Uncle Steve loses it, don’t panic. Tell him, “We need to take a step back here.” If he insults you, tell him you’re sorry he has that impression, but this is a discussion is not a fight. Give him the opportunity to stop the discussion or take a break.
- How about if he says something you find morally offensive (those people are $*%! for example) Take a breath. You say, “You already know I don’t agree with you, and that kind of talk just makes it harder for us to communicate. I don’t want to continue the discussion if you say that kind of stuff.
- What if you start to lose it? Uncle Steve has just called your political party a bunch of moral degenerates and insulted your spouse. Take a minute to cool off. Then tell him, “Uncle Steve, this is making me mad. We don’t want to end up mad at each other. Let’s agree we won’t throw out insults, even if they’re not directed at us personally. They still make us mad.”
- Allow Uncle Steve to make his own points, but don’t let him interrupt you or monopolize. Remind him this is a discussion, not a speech if necessary. If he continues this behavior, tell him you wanted a discussion, not another rendition of his views, and if he doesn’t let you talk, you’d rather call it quits.
If, after all your efforts, you can’t have a discussion with Uncle Steve, it’s not the end of the world. Just stick to your guns that if it can’t be discussed, it’s off limits for both of you. Hopefully, he got the message and let you have your say.
Next time, we talk about identity and identity politics.