Just Ask for the Story

I’m teaching my favorite kind of essay in class: rebuttal. I invite students to write essays to change our minds by arguing against one position in favor of another.

It’s tricky.

We talk all morning about changing the communication climate in order to connect and care for the opposition. The goal isn’t winning. The goal isn’t to be right. The goal is persuasion. We learn that first, we need to foster connection with our audience in order to truly dialogue.

To connect best with those with whom we disagree, we must understand their story. When did they adopt that particular viewpoint? What’s the story behind their belief? What was it like for them to experience these things?

Capturing stories means we work to ask the right questions, and then we lean back and say, “Tell me more.”

When a person feels truly understood and loved, only then can fruitful debate happen.

In a college classroom, folks get angry so quickly. If you bring up words like abortion, homosexuality, religion, or even simply Democrat or Republican, everyone bristles for different reasons. But if you take a deep breath and ask for the story behind someone’s viewpoint, you find students actually dialoguing in genuine, civil ways.

I’m learning not to bristle and instead ask the right questions.

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Don’t you love a great conversation? 

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