Yep. I sometimes have this problem with overzealous activist friends. They get hyperfocused on their cause and forget that other people may see the world differently. So here’s a list of things that will and won’t help you win friends and allies.
Things that may work on me:
- Politely and respectfully present me with your feelings on a given situation. (Example: “When you do X, I feel Y.”)
- Do your best to answer any questions I may have on the subject.
- Compromise if possible.
- Work with me to develop a solution that leaves us both feeling empowered and all-around good for doing the right thing.
Things that definitely don’t work on me:
- Telling me to “check my privilege” (three little words that instantly shut my brain off) or otherwise indicating that I do not have the right to speak on a certain subject. (Unless your aim is to exclude me from the conversation, of course, in which case, you’ve just lost an ally. The solution to silencing is not silencing.)
- Making assumptions about my situation.
- Demanding punitive, unreasonable, or otherwise unrealistic “solutions” to the issue.
- Spewing vitriol.
- Acts of extremism aimed at “bringing attention” to the issue which directly or indirectly bring harm to others. (Blocking off a street with a protest is “just an inconvenience” until you’re trying to get to the hospital or a job interview. THINK about other people once in awhile, hm?)
These are by no means exhaustive, but they are helpful in dealing with those you hope to coax around to your way of thinking. If you want open ears and open minds, it’s best not to put people on the defensive right from the get-go.