How to have an open-minded discussion regarding deeply held convictions

1. Always remember the purpose of the conversation is the exchange of ideas and experiences. The point of the conversation is to hear others’ point of view and to share your own.

2. Kindness and respect should be the mental stance throughout. If another person is listening to your convictions, they are doing you a kindness. If they are sharing their own convictions, you are receiving the reflected light of their revealed truth. Respect is appropriate at such times, and indeed, necessary for the exchange to occur.

3. Be secure in your own convictions. Do not be needy, asking for affirmation during the conversation. If what you think it true, no one needs to tell you so. You should not try to convince the other person to agree with you.

4. Ask questions and listen to the answers.

5. If you don’t understand something someone is saying, ask them to clarify: “When you said X, I’m not sure what you meant. Can you explain?”

6. Don’t press too hard for explanations. New ideas may take some time to get your mind around. By pressing too hard for evidence, you may cause them to feel defensive.

7. Should your conversation partner be persistent in trying to get affirmation from you when you don’t feel in agreement, do not answer insincerely. A soft answer, for example “I really need to think about that, I can’t answer right now” might help to get past the sticking point

8. If you begin to feel angry, disrespected or cornered during the discussion, try to direct the conversation toward a less sensitive area.

9. If your conversation partner expresses a racist, sexist, or violent idea, SPEAK OUT. If you let such ideas go unchallenged, you are lending support by your silence. Say something like, “I heard what you just said, and I disagree. Every person deserves respect as a part of our shared humanity.” If violence is mentioned, say, “It’s really not right to hurt anyone. There are better ways to handle the situation.”

10. If you feel close to responding in anger or otherwise behaving unkindly, excuse yourself. Try saying “This conversation is bringing up a lot of feelings for me. I really can’t keep talking about this. I’m sorry. Excuse me.” Abandoning the conversation is much better than hurting someone.

Killing with Kindness

I worry about Africa. I really do. They seem to be in a lot of trouble. There are a lot of horrible dictators there. There are a lot of famine and droughts, and people seem to be constantly starving.

Why are they contstantly starving in Africa? America doesn’t seem to have famine like that. I mean, has the United States ever had a famine?

When was the last time that Britain had famine? Or France? Or Germany?

Why should Africa be so full of famine? What’s the deal with that?

Here is one Kenyan economist’s explanation:
the Europeans’ devastating urge to do good can no longer be countered with reason…We can buy these donated clothes cheaply at our so-called Mitumba markets…Why do we get these mountains of clothes? No one is freezing here… Instead, our tailors lose their livlihoods. They’re in the same position as our farmers. No one in the low-wage world of Africa can be cost-efficient enough to keep pace with donated products. In 1997, 137,000 workers were employed in Nigeria’s textile industry. By 2003, the figure had dropped to 57,000. The results are the same in all other areas where overwhelming helpfulness and fragile African markets collide.”

I recommend reading the interview. He makes some incredibly valid points. We need to let the African countries take care of themselves. They are much stronger than we have let them be. They deserve the chance to be truly independent. We just have to get out of the way.