The Lost Art Of Respectful Conversations
Start writing a post
Politics and Activism

The Lost Art Of Respectful Conversations

The Lost Art Of Respectful Conversations
Huffington Post

The way that we present ourselves and communicate ideas is incredibly powerful. It is indicative of our character and influences our relationships on a daily basis. Healthy arguments and conversations can be learning and growing experiences, better developing our view of the world and greatly informing our perspective on political and social issues. However, rhetorical, communicative practices are increasingly turning from opportunities for better self-understanding to personal attacks and character-judgements. Instead of entering conversations for the purpose of bettering ourselves, we enter them to categorize and change others. This alteration in purpose, I think, is indicative of the lost art of respectful conversations.

Whether the topic is politics, religion, social issues, or personal life choices, our motivations for entering a discussion will likely determine two things: the tone of the conversation and its ultimate outcome. Have you ever had a conversation with someone on a controversial topic whose mind was already made up? Think back to that instance. What was the tone of the conversation like? When you disagreed or offered an alternative understanding on the issue, did you feel like your voice was being heard and considered? Probably not. Why? Because the motivation of the conversation was not to create mutual understanding and cultivate personal growth. The purpose was to argue a conclusive point or convince you of something you disagreed with; this motivation for entering a conversation fundamentally values others based on their opinions and disrespects others' differing experiences and points of view. Its goal is to change, rather than to be changed, and fosters tense, argumentative atmospheres instead of mutually beneficial, safe spaces to exchange ideas.

Now you may respond to this by thinking "but what if my opinion really is the right one?" Let me respond by asking this: When was the last time someone forcibly argued you into changing your perspective? The way we converse with others is indicative of our character and communicates whether or not we value others at a personal and professional level; using an argumentative tone and method shuts down, rather than enlightens, communication and understanding of an issue. If your sole goal is to convince someone else that they are wrong, you are also missing out on a much larger opportunity for productive, personal growth!

Because of the way that social media and news sources present issues, it seems as though everyone has an opinion on every issue and this can pressure us into feeling like we also have to be opinionated and feel a false sense of being "informed." However, this actually shuts down our ability to truly learn! If you think you have the world figured out, you need another look. If you think that there are "easy" solutions to the political and social issues in the United States or the world, you haven't truly listened to the complexity of the debates. Stubborn opinions prevent us from being flexible in a dynamic world and inherently lead to bias, arrogance, and a lack of communication skills. Instead of feeling like you need to have an opinion on every issue, try being open-minded---it will relieve you from the pressure of solving the world's problems, and open your mind and heart to truly communicate with people different from yourself.

Let's bring back the art of respectful conversations. Let's bring back mutual understanding, growth, and opportunities for self-betterment.

Are you in?

Then try these 5 tips the next time you converse with someone whose experiences, background, and worldview has led them to a different understanding than your own:

1. Check Yourself.

What's your goal in entering this conversation? Is it to learn something or convince someone else of something you think you already know?

2. Actively Listen.

Active listening is a basic communication skill. When someone expresses themselves, respond with understanding. Seek to know more about their perspective instead of inserting your own voice.

3. Ask Questions.

Rather than always feeling the need to explain your own opinion, try asking questions about theirs instead. Maybe they have reasons that you've never considered before.

4. Be Open.

Be open to different ideas than your own. Know that opinions do not determine worth, and that the issues our country and world face are incredibly complex. Sometimes the best conversations are ones in which you do not even express your own opinion.

5. Express Yourself Respectfully.

Having a respectful conversation does not mean that you aren't allowed to express your thoughts at all. Expressing yourself is a great opportunity to think through your own reasons for your beliefs! However, this does not mean that you feel the need to leave the conversation having "won," or that your passion about the topic results in disrespecting the other person. Express yourself understanding that it's okay to disagree and knowing that a successful conversation always breeds mutual understanding rather than frustration or anger.

Changing our culture begins by shifting the tone of our conversations. So go out there and have productive, respectful conversations!

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

How I Went From Pro-Life To Pro-Choice

"No one can make you do this."


I was raised in a strict, Irish-Catholic family. My parents and grandparents, even though I love them, instilled many beliefs in me that I came to disagree with as I grew older, things like "homosexuality is weird and wrong." I eventually rejected many of these ideas once I began growing into myself, but there was always one belief I let ring true well into my teen years: abortion is the murder of an unborn baby.

Keep Reading... Show less

Trip to The City of Dreams

In a city that never sleeps, with constant bustling and hustling in the streets, my friend and I venture out to see what the "Big Apple" is all about.

Trip to The City of Dreams

There are so many ways for one to describe the beautiful city of New York. It is breathtaking, exciting and alive all in one. Taking a trip here was absolutely the adventure of a lifetime for me and I'm so grateful to have gotten to see all there is to do in the "City of Dreams" with one of my best friends.

Keep Reading... Show less

a God story.


a God story.

many of you have someone in your life you admire the most. a parent, a superhero, a celebrity.

Keep Reading... Show less

God, What's Next?

What you're probably asking yourself during your season of waiting.

God, What's Next?

We spend most of our lives waiting for something. Maybe you're waiting for a job opportunity to open up, or for a professor to email you back because you procrastinated on your assignment, or maybe you're waiting for the next chapter in your life to start. Whatever the case maybe be for you I want to let you know that your season of waiting is not in vain! It may seem like it but your season of waiting is a crucial part in your walk with Christ. You may not have a walk with Christ and I encourage you to be open to starting a relationship with him but even your time of waiting isn't in vain. Waiting is a hard thing to do but it is so worth it in the end. The Bible even tells us this in Ecclesiastes.

Keep Reading... Show less

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Facebook Comments