As a progressive vegan “fighting The Man”, it can only be expected that I often run into some challenging situations and debates. In fact, I might be better at giving tips on how not to argue, so I’d be glad to take my own advice.
Recently, I’ve heard over and over that when it comes to ideas on the left, there is no debating to be done. Climate change is fact, the global economy is a pyramid scheme, fossil fuels are bunk, and the like. Although it is easier to think this way, debating is a good place to start to create movements based on strong ties and understanding, and pushes us to educate ourselves. But sometimes I have to wonder if ‘debating’ is synonymous with ‘stalling’. Instead of debating whether grassroots movements are the answer, why don’t we engage in them? Instead of wondering whether organic, local food is better for us and the planet, why don’t we choose them and see how they make us feel? Instead of spending all our energy to figure out what the tipping point for climate change is, why don’t we push ourselves to live a life that eliminates our dependence on fossil fuels?
The answers seem so clear to some of us, especially when you’re surrounded by like-minded individuals day after day (like here, at the Smart Bubble Society studio). But when it comes time to share your ideas with a new group, it’s often surprising to hear completely opposing opinions (especially views that one would expect to see on a network like Fox News).
So, if you run into your own personal Glenn Beck, or your mom who simply doesn’t think the planet is facing a crisis, or your friend who says they just don’t care, here are some tips:
Listen – The easiest way to fully engage is to sincerely listen.
Ask them for their source – Although this type of question is often demeaning (depending on the tone in which it’s asked), it is important to find out where your adversary is getting his or her facts. We know that nowadays, media is manipulated by only a few corporations. Whose interests are being looked after in the news stories we’re using as reference?
Don’t take it personally – This is probably the most difficult challenge in debating an idea to which you feel devoted. We most often argue with our friends and family, which is a whole other ballgame than debating with strangers, something I’m sure many consider a much easier feat.
Don’t lose hope – Debates and arguments tend to take on a whole new dimension as they progress; it turns into a winner-loser battle. And sometimes your “opponent” may just want to see you lose hope. It’s hard not to walk away with your chin down when someone tells you you can’t make a difference, but in the end I always keep in my mind one of my favourite quotes:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead