How to Talk to Someone You Hate

 How to Talk to Someone You HateJay Heinrichs – Nov 21 2016

Here is more good advice on how to handle those we disagree with… even if we have nothing but negative feelings for the person because they have made our lives miserable by supporting opioid restrictions on pain patients.

It was hate on first sight. This dude was sitting in an airport restaurant, eating huevos rancheros (he later called it “”wetback food””) when my friend Heather and I walked in. Turns out the guy was Heather’s bro-in-law, and we were supposed to have breakfast with him.”

We sat down and I asked him what he did for a living. Turns out Buff works as an executive for a private prison company that has made a huge income from government contracts to lock up people who snuck across the border.  

I’ll call him Buff, even though he wasn’t;

Killing him wasn’t an option.

So I employed a set of techniques I’ve spent years teaching nicer people. They come from rhetoric, the art of persuasion.

If enough people learned the art, I believe we’d have a lot less sound and fury in this country, along with better elections. And better pain care.

I’ve broken down the techniques for this sort of occasion into five tools: 

  1. Goal. As in, set one
  2. Audience, as in onlookers
  3. Aggressive Interest,
  4. Sympathy, and
  5. Love.

Rhetoric isn’t about you.

If you want to persuade anyone, you need to work with your audience’s beliefs and expectations.

This doesn’t mean feeling everything they feel. That’s empathy, a fine trait but not rhetorically useful.

Sympathy means understanding what the audience is feeling

In my case, the audience was Heather. But as the breakfast continued I noticed that Buff was coming a little closer in my direction

my questions revealed he wanted to do what was best for his country and, despite all his macho bravado, was a little confused about what actually was best. It made it easier to fake…

faking love can work much the way asking questions does: it creates a sort of persuasive tractor beam, pulling your opponent a little bit in your direction. Combine that with rhetorical sympathy and awareness of your audience, and the situation gets a bit warmer, a bit less awkwar”

began asking questions, focusing on definitions, details, and trends. When Buff said that Mexicans don’t ever really become American, I looked fascinated and asked him what he meant by “”Mexicans.”” People born in Mexico? Second-generation Mexican-Americans? Third? Fourth?”

Why go to all that trouble? Because people asked to define the meaning of their terms tend to come up with less extreme terms

Details do the same thing

initially, trends. Buff, like Trump, claimed that Mexicans were swarming over the border. I asked him how many, and whether the number was increasing. “I find this stuff confusing”

In short, the more I asked for definitions, details and trends, the more he modified everything he said

As part of my consulting practice I teach clients to give TED talks or corporate presentations. One of the best pieces of advice: Before you start talking, tell yourself how much you love your audience. This works with a hostile opponent as well

I don’t mean you should actually try to love an asshole. We’re talking rhetoric, not religion.

Instead, pretend to love him. Onlookers will think you’re noble.

Other thoughts?

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