“Conflict is a part of life” and can be constructive, says Nolan Higdon, co-author of Let’s Agree to Disagree: A Critical Thinking Guide to Communication, Conflict Management, and Critical Media Literacy. New research on “deep canvassing” shows that one-on-one conversations can and do change minds. In 2016, two social scientists found that one 10-minute conversation encouraging actively taking the perspective of others can markedly reduce prejudice for at least 3 months. In 2020, the political activist organization People’s Action explored if the method could change the minds of voters who were tempted to vote to reelect former president Donald Trump. Canvassers nonjudgmentally invited voters to open up about their real, conflicted feelings on an issue, sharing vulnerably about their own lives, and asking curious questions about the voter’s life (especially what shaped how they each feel about the issue). “When we take this approach, people’s experience leads them away from prejudice, stigma, or fear, and towards empathy and a willingness to consider progressive solutions,” says the New Conversation Initiative. The results were surprisingly effective in helping people see their common humanity, it says.

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