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Ten Tips (Plus One!) for Discussing Michigan’s Abortion Ballot Measure
It’s likely we’ll all have opportunities to talk about the upcoming state vote on abortion. Whether it’s a casual conversation with a neighbor or friend, or a more structured discussion with a campaign representative, you may be asked to share your thoughts on the proposal. What will you say, and how can you keep important relationships strong, even if you disagree?
The first step — and the most important one of all — is prayer. Talk to God before you talk to anyone else, and ask the Holy Spirit to fill you and guide your words. Filled with this peace, your conversation is sure to be a fruitful one. Once your spirit is settled, it’s time to begin. Here are 10 easy steps:
1. CHECK YOURSELF.
Before you start talking, you should make sure you know how far you’re willing to take the conversation and be prepared to give yourself an “out” if things get heated. You can always decide to take a break and return to the conversation later, or agree to disagree. Conversely, you don’t have to be a doormat. If someone else tries to force their views onto you, you must decide when it’s important to speak up or step back. Only you can decide where the appropriate boundaries are going to be for you.
2. CHECK YOUR FACTS.
Don’t open a conversation you’re not ready to have. If you haven’t thought much about your position, your arguments or your facts, you could quickly find yourself in way over your head. Do your homework and be prepared to speak thoughtfully and sincerely.
3. BE HONEST AND CURIOUS.
These conversations are not comfortable for anyone. Acknowledge all the feelings involved and be prepared to act in ways that are vulnerable and open. Ask good questions and listen well — after all, you’re trying to understand as much as you are trying to be understood.
4. TRY TO FIND SHARED EXPERIENCES.
Facts and data points are never going to be as convincing as when one heart truly speaks to another. Use your heart as a resource and a guide for a conversation that enriches, informs, and loves deeply.
5. THIS ISN’T A PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE.
Don’t perform, shoot “zingers” or try to score points at the expense of your relationship. Be real, thoughtful and sincere — after all, your integrity and sensitivity are going to be far more convincing than any fancy one-liner.
6. DON’T ENGAGE IN “SHAMING” BEHAVIOR.
When someone feels defensive or embarrassed, they stop hearing you. Let your conversation be hopeful and friendly, so your relationship will still be intact when you’re done speaking.
7. YOU HAVE TWO EARS AND ONE MOUTH.
Use them proportionally. Really listening to the people you’re in conversation with will help you better understand where they’re coming from.
8. FIND COMMON GROUND.
Most people value the same things — truly! Start with neutral statements and always seek the ideas and feelings you share — at the end of the conversation, these are the most important things to take with you.
9. AVOID ANGER.
Don’t let your emotions carry you away. It’s OK to disagree with someone and love them at the same time. Christ does this throughout the Gospels, and you can do it too!
10. REMEMBER TO REST IN THE POWER OF YOUR CONVICTIONS.
Even if you don’t succeed in convincing someone else of your arguments, you don’t have to change your mind. The most important action you’ll take, after all, isn’t in a personal chat with your neighbor, but in making sure you make it to the polls on Election Day!