A couple of weeks ago, I received some very good feedback on a post I wrote about a debate in the realm of climate. One point that I brought up in discussion was ha the communications strategy for both sides of the climate change debate are not bridging a gap. I wrote, “Nobody is being persuaded who isn’t already convinced.”
This is preaching to the choir. All one needs to do is look a a Facebook feed and see that, yes, it is everywhere. In the wake of the mass shooting in Oregon, the same old methods of communication are being brought out anew. These consist of meme’s promoting statistics about gun use in America. These are countered by statistics about gun use in America.
It goes to different places. In the US we see it with guns. With climate change. With taxation. With government entitlements. With mental health. The election cycle brings plenty of these. (Interestingly, I haven’t seen much coming from the Bernie Sanders camp the last couple of weeks).
What do these memes usually accomplish? Yes, a flame war. IF I were to ask how many people have “unfriended” a person for frequent disagreements with another regarding a political topic (or been unfriended) a significant portion would respond affirmatively. There is a good reason for this:
The desire for a mutual exchange of ideas is not there anymore. Public and private discussion consist of ramming ideas down people’s throats. Of people who cannot accept that agreeing to disagree is okay.
That’s not the point. The point of these is not to discuss and resolve. The point is not to inform or educate the other side. The point is not to provide some additional source of information. The point is to win.
This comes down to what the purpose is of some post? Is the purpose to seek the validation of the choir? Is the purpose to rile the opposition? Is the purpose to present a new idea for discussion? Do you want to see a different perspective or learn some thing different?
For that, you must engage the opposition. Preaching doesn’t work. It just widens the gap.
It’s why the climate change community shouldn’t be knocking Heartland. It should be ENGAGING with Heartland. Heartland should not be bashing Michael Mann but instead offering their assistance to him. Heartland should be encouraged to offer criticism of the Gavin Schmidt’s work while zealously defending the man.
This is how to persuade people. You might not get validation of your friends this way, but if you are looking to persuade people who don’t agree with you, kindness works.
We don’t persuade people by flaming them. We persuade people by respecting them. With handshakes instead of fists.