New experiment: I want to try using the word “you” less when discussing – and particularly debating – ideas.1
I’m thinking it’s more accessible and less threatening to discuss ideas as they relate to me, and to then allow conversation partners to extrapolate what they want onto themselves.
This is a bit vague, so an example might help. Compare these two:
You should read FiveThirtyEight. They provide a lot of helpful context, and they’ll help you understand the data behind the news you read.
I’ve started reading FiveThirtyEight. I’ve found they provide a lot of helpful context, and they help me understand the data behind the news I read.
The first is imperative – giving a command or strong recommendation to someone. It invades their space and makes them feel like they need to respond by either changing (unlikely in the immediate present) or defending themselves (more likely, and will result in their being less likely to ever change their mind).
The second is reflective. It simply states my thought process, and thereby keeps the spotlight off of my conversation partner so that they feel no pressure or scrutiny. As a result, they may feel safer to reflect on the idea – even later, on their own time – without feeling judgment from me, and may eventually come to the same conclusion themselves.
The goal is to create a safe space to think about an idea, and then invite my conversation partner into that space.
- I'm thinking that the ideas in this post are most relevant for debates with people with whom I'm not very close — i.e., people with whom I don't necessarily share a lot of trust, and who may be more likely to be offended by my challenging their worldview. By contrast, I would expect to challenge (and be challenged by) close friends more directly, where our mutual trust would make the imperative approach more effective.