One way to talk with Trump supporters
Erica Edelson writes in Salon:
The only way to talk someone out of voting for Trump is to stop trying to talk them out of voting for Trump. To all my fellow progressives who’ve been busily browbeating supporters of this dangerous demagogue, you’re invited to become an early adopter of a far more rewarding, non-adversarial approach called “powerful non-defensive communication.”
According to most commentators, the prototypical Trump supporter is an uneducated, narrow-minded bigot with legitimate grievances against the faltering economy which Trump has skillfully alchemized into violent rage toward non-whites, Muslims and successful women. The Trump voter is a patriarchal authoritarian primed since early childhood to fearfully submit to a bullying father who always knows best. In the circular logic of the authoritarian mindset, might makes right — and so Trump, as the strongman, is necessarily the winner in a competition against losers.
While there is some truth to this profile, it doesn’t capture the nuances of experience, emotion and belief that are about to lead tens of millions of voters to pull the lever for Trump, including, as of July, 11 percent of Muslims, 13 percent of Latinos, 34 percent of women and significant numbers of professionals. Progressives tend to react to such information with groaning disbelief, at which point we either give up or rededicate ourselves to enlightening the ignorant dupes with scads of facts that contradict the false narrative spun by Trump.
As anyone who’s ever tried to reason someone out of their core beliefs knows, the mind filters out contradictory information, particularly the mind of an authoritarian whose panic button is stuck in the On position. Debating them and trying to convince them to dump Trump will make them dig in deeper — that’s what people do when they feel threatened. Also, as Newt Gingrich makes woefully clear in a John Oliver clip, everyone’s got their own set of “facts” these days, so flinging more facts back and forth is futile.
So what should we do instead? To answer this question, I contacted communication guru Sharon Ellison, creator of powerful non-defensive communication and author of “Taking the War Out of Our Words.” Ellison has trained thousands of educators, government officials and corporate and non-profit leaders, including me, in a novel, straightforward style of communication that avoids the pitfalls of the conventional adversarial approach. She was credited with turning around a trailing gubernatorial campaign by training the candidate in powerful non-defensive communication, and her website teems with testimonials from trainees who’ve achieved communication and relationship breakthroughs they’d never imagined.
I asked Ellison for tips on engaging Trump supporters in ways that encourage them to drop their mental defenses and rethink their position. The starting place, she says, is curiosity.
Instead of blasting Trump or insulting the morality or intelligence of his supporters, first, just get curious. You don’t have to agree; you’re simply gathering information and trying to understand where they’re coming from, even if you believe they’re deeply misguided.
Make it a dialogue, not a debate or an inquisition. No matter how true and rational your analysis is, force-feeding it will not go down well. . .