We’re back with our series on civil discourse today, moving on to FROG.
Yes. I’m tickled too.
Do you dread neighborhood gatherings because they always end in a political argument?
Do you secretly cringe when your seat mate on the commuter line you frequent says, “our government is finally on the right track” ?
Are you curious about how someone you’ve always liked, and who appears so sensible, could possibly believe what you just heard come out of her/his mouth?
Are you dreading that big family gathering next month because you know that you’re the only one who voted the way you did and you know the subject is going to come up?
Then, today’s post is geared to you.
Welcome. You’ve hit upon the sixth post in the LEAP FROG series, my model of civil civic (i.e., political) discourse, which began in February with this one entitled Civil Discourse in a New Age.
I hope the discussion so far has taken some of the mystery out of engaging with those we find ourselves avoiding since last November. AND, with the tools provided, I hope that you’re eager to engage in a political discussion that will neither raise your blood pressure nor get you written out of the will. Well, maybe not eager. Curios, maybe? Open minded?
To summarize so far, LEAP is from Listening (with Empathy), Assessing whether you want to continue in the discussion or not, and then Presenting your ideas in a way that will be heard, constitutes LEAP. Today, we’re on to FROG, which is actually a spinoff of the P = Present your ideas. Yes, all the points I’ll be covering in FROG pertain to that last stage of LEAP.
And remember, as in any game of leap frog, these steps happen over and over and over. You are both taking turns listening (with empathy), assessing, and then presenting.
FROG, at its core, asks, “how can I present (P) my ideas in a way that will increase the likelihood that the other person will hear me?”
That is, of course, the eternal question. FROG is all about helping you present your viewpoint in a way that will be met with civility, if not curiosity.
Think back to your last political conversation. Or, your last Town Hall meeting. Or, your last family feast. What went wrong? Or, should I say, what went wrong first?
Never fear. This year you will have the FROG for guidance.
And, as in all good acronyms, FROG has multiple parts. Let’s begin
F is for Facts (forget them)
We’ll start with this quote from Founding Father Thomas Jefferson:
Whenever the people are well-informed,
they can be trusted with their own government.
It’s why we base our democracy on free, pubic education and a free press. We want an informed citizenry. Abraham Lincoln was a great believer in that too.
I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth,
they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis.
The great point is to bring them the real facts. Abraham Lincoln
And surely you’ve heard these:
If people are ignorant, facts will enlighten them.
If they are mistaken, facts will set them straight.
I’m here to tell you that it ain’t necessarily so, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln notwithstanding. Let me introduce you to
The Backfire Effect
Confronting a belief with facts to the contrary
oftens strengthens the initial belief.
I touched on this idea with my post on “Blame it on the oxytocin … with it’s magic spell” last August. And yes, oxytocin, that hormone that flows when we feel all safe and warm and fuzzy (also known as the trust hormone) is to blame. We like it. We want more. And we take steps to get more, like hanging with those who believe as we do — our tribe.
I can’t find a similar tune for “blame it on the anterior cingulate cortex,” but that tiny sliver of our brain — that served us well in eons of old when the mastadon was headed our way — is, unfortunately for us, not very good at discriminating real from perceived threat. To the anterior cingulate cortex, a threat is a threat is a threat.
It can be scary to move outside our comfort zone. Threatening to our sense of who we are.
AND, when our sense of who we are is attached to a particular set of beliefs that has just been criticized, well, we click into survival mode, thanks to that sliver on the anterior side of our cingulate cortex.
I say all this as a guide for when you find yourself sitting across the turkey from Uncle Bob (everyone’s got an Uncle Bob, don’t they?) who declares that “Hillary Clinton is a charlatan and a crook and should be in jail.” Or Aunt Betty complains about the black family that just moved in down the street and “How will I ever cope now that my property values will surely plummet.” Or Cousin Rudy announces plans to buy himself “a brand new UZI because, gosh dang, it’s my constitutional right, by golly.”
Yup, whatever the scenario, just remember, FORGET THE FACTS. They’re not going to help. Not yet.
How about you? We’ve still got an R and an O and a G to cover. Will you venture a guess?