Best practices for counter speakers!
You can make a difference!
Martin Luther King Jr knew what it took to make change. He said, ”Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter” and” in the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends”.
The real threat we are facing is not just the hate from the few, but the silence from everyone standing beside watching. If you have an opinion, say it out loud! It may seem small and insignificant, but in that way, you will be strengthening our democracy. Human rights can never take for granted, they will always need to be defended.
We have gathered our best tips from what we’ve learned throughout the past 3 years of having conversations with people we don’t agree with, are ideologically distant from us, or are trolling:
- Assume that people mean well. Even if you’re standing right next to another person, it can be difficult to interpret what they mean. A good rule is: Presume the best possible interpretation of what that person is saying. Always assume they mean well.
- Listen! To listen is fundamental in order to have a meaningful conversation. Listen while others speak. Don’t stand there thinking about your next line, but really listen to understand what they are saying.
- Don’t leave your core issue For the conversation to stay fluent, you need to stick to the core discussion. Something common in a conversation is that the issue turns into being about how someone is, instead of how something is. Let the person you’re talking to tell you how they see themselves and state their own opinions. Stick to the topic of the discussion. For example, you can say that something is bad, but not that someone is bad, stupid, mean etc.
- It’s okay to disagree. You want to have a conversation, not convince someone or to win an argument. Most likely, you’ll both have the same opinion after your conversation, but the conversation is still valuable. You have said what you wanted to say and maybe you’ve planted a seed of thought that may grow in the future.
- Ask questions. Be curious! Ask questions to try and understand the person you’re talking to. Listen to the answers and keep asking questions about what the other person is saying, instead of immediately telling someone” how it is”, which can appear condescending and provocative. Often argumentation tend to fall flat quickly if they’re not grounded in facts.
- Agree on what the words mean. To be able to communicate well you will need to agree on what you mean with a term or a definition. For example, what is racism, feminism or democracy? Ask what the other person means. Maybe they have completely different definitions.
- Try to find a common ground. Try to meet others where they are. For example, you can ask what’s important for the other person, what they’re thinking, worrying about, or engaging in. Also use a language that the other person understands without being condescending. It’s always preferable to use a simple vocabulary.
- Talk about what YOU want. You have something important to say, make sure to steer the conversation into staying on topic. Try to put the conversation back to the starting point, if it goes way off topic. For example, you can say,” let’s get back to the point”. Don’t waste time talking to someone who is trolling you. Instead, finish and talk to someone else.
- Find facts together. If you can’t answer a question, refer to people that know more about this specific question, or google together with the person you’re talking to. One trick might be to ask,” What facts would you need to listen to what I say”. Then be prepared to find those facts, if possible. By doing that you’ll challenge the other person to open a closed discussion. Regardless, with that question, you will make the other person think in another perspective for a moment.
- Keep your feelings in control. One reason many of us find it difficult to have these conversations is that most of us avoid conflict. If you are a person who easily get frustrated, one trick to use, is to pretend to be a sociologist, a psychologist or a journalist. Leave your feelings out of the discussion. If you want to, talk about how you feel, remain calm and say, for example” it makes me sad when you say these things”. We hope these tips will be helpful and that they’ll lead to many meaningful conversations, a lot of laughs and a feeling of togetherness. Most people are as concerned about protecting our democracy as we are. Thank you for your help in creating a better world!
IF YOU MEET SOMEONE WHO IS HATEFUL IRL:
- Keep your calm.
- Don’t attack.
- If someone attacks your friend, don’t attack them, just stand up for your friend.
- If you feel threatened – call your country’s emergency number.
- Document! Film what is happening!
IF YOU MEET SOMEONE HATEFUL ONLINE:
- Keep calm, don’t act the way they’re acting.
- Support your friends who are getting attacked by liking their comments, and comment in a supportive way.
- Always take screenshots, and always screenshot the whole screen so that the threat, as well as the context, time and date is clearly seen.
- Always report threats, hate against ethnical groups and other hateful content, to the police. Call your local police office and give a detailed picture about what happened, together with evidence.
- If someone calls you and claims that he/she is a reporter – always ask about name and where the person is calling from. If you don’t recognize the name of media channel, it can be a person calling from an “alternative media” group. Someone who might to take your words and put them out of context in order to create” fake news”. The best way to respond is to just hang up the phone. If you feel uncertain, ask the reporter to e-mail you and double check the media channel and the reporters name.