Quantcast
Connect with us

There’s a science to successfully talking to Trump supporters

Published

on

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or something else—if you are a reasonable person then you must be wondering what the hell hardcore Trump supporters are thinking right now. From wearing shirts that say, “I’d rather be a Russian than Democrat,” to conspiracy theories that Hillary Clinton was running a pedophilia ring out of a pizza joint, it is obvious that Donald Trump and abominable allies have perfected the skill of brain washing those vulnerable to such manipulation. It’s all so bizarre that most Americans have at some point questioned whether someone had slipped them some LSD when they weren’t looking.

ADVERTISEMENT

If humans were completely rational agents, our beliefs and political attitudes would be based on reasoning grounded in evidence and logic—but unfortunately that’s not the case. Critical thinking is a skill that needs to be taught, and with fiery emotions like anger and fear exacerbating political bias and polarizing the nation, getting people to listen to reason is more difficult than ever.

But completely giving up on the task of converting fellow Americans—even staunch Trump supporters and outlandish conspiracy theorists—into crusaders for logic and reason should not be an option. If you consider yourself a good Samaritan, such an effort should be considered a moral responsibility and an ethical imperative.

While this task can certainly be difficult, the good news is that it is by no means impossible. There are a number of psychological strategies identified by social scientists that can make convincing the irrational more likely.

1. The first step, and the most obvious, is to open up a dialogue.

ADVERTISEMENT

I often see people saying things like, “You can’t talk sense into racists and bigots.” While it is true that some may have biases too deeply-engrained for them to change, that certainly isn’t the case for all of them. We all suffer from tribalism to some degree, a trait that has been hardwired in through evolution, but many of us have largely overcome this natural tendency thanks to the influence of open-minded others. Staunch religious fundamentalists firmly believe everyone else is going to hell, but that didn’t stop the atheists, agnostics, and moderately-spiritual people from trying to convince them otherwise—and thanks to those efforts, religious extremists have drastically decreased in numbers.

When you engage Trump loyalists in debate, try to respond with meaty content that has greater numbers of sentences and paragraphs, since research shows that one-liners and superficial statements do little to persuade people. Also, it is a good idea to cite reputable sources and provide links to external sites, so that information is recognized as objective, rather than a biased opinion.

2. Avoid using emotionally-charged words and approach them in a way that does not feel threatening.

ADVERTISEMENT

Emotions like anxiety, fear, and anger exacerbate political bias, so use soft wording and a calm tone, and try to make them feel at ease.

A well-established psychological phenomenon is that when people feel they are under threat, they cling more strongly to their worldviews—cultural and political ideologies, religions, and biases—because those familiar things make them feel safe.

When challenging their views, don’t try to belittle or insult them by calling them dumb or ignorant. Expose them to new information in the way you would introduce an interesting concept to a friend. Don’t try to convince a conservative to become a liberal or take on a new identity—instead try to convince them to simply become a more informed, disciplined, and open-minded thinker. This implies that the persuader is already open-minded and aware of their own biases, which is important.

ADVERTISEMENT

3. Find common ground and build on it.

I think it is safe to say that most Americans, regardless of political affilitation, want what is best for America. While the Left and the Right have different visions of what a “great America” looks like, there are surely a lot of things that can be agreed upon, such as safety, economic opportunity, and liberty.

Acknowledge facts and be willing to concede a little. America does have a problem with violent gangs composed of illegal immigrants like MS-13, and radical Islamic terror groups like ISIS still pose a threat, both physically and ideologically. Once that common ground has been established, it becomes much easier to explain that these individuals exist as a very small minority, and that most immigrants come to this country for the same American dream of freedom and opportunity that they hold. Support these facts with data from scientific or politically-neutral sources. Show them that you are reasonable, and also willing to change opinions in the face of new evidence.

ADVERTISEMENT

By carefully building these bridges, we can come closer to agreement rather than pushing one another further away.

Of course, there are limits to how much time and energy one can spend on trying to convince someone who completely refuses to listen to reason. So when is it time to throw in the towel?

Research shows that in back-and-forth dialogues, if a person hasn’t been persuaded by the fourth round, it is likely a lost cause. Move on to the next irrational American that needs saving, because the war against ignorance and intolerance is one we must face head on.

Bobby Azarian is a neuroscientist affiliated with George Mason University and a freelance journalist. His research has been published in journals such as Cognition & Emotion and Human Brain Mapping, and he has written for The New York Times, The Atlantic, Psychology Today, and Scientific American. Follow him @BobbyAzarian.


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

New York Times battered on MSNBC for pushing smear of Hunter Biden in order to maintain access to Trump

Published

on

An "AM Joy" panel jumped all over the New York Times for pushing a widely debunked smear of Hunter Biden promoted by Donald Trump, saying the newspaper is more interested in maintaining their access to the Oval Office than debunking the lie.

Speaking with host Joy Reid -- who noted that her producers asked for comment from the Times but were rebuffed -- MSNBC regular Maria Teresa Kumar scorched the Times, as well as reporter Ken Vogel, for the uncritical parroting of the president's smear.

Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

Ukrainian journalist throws down gauntlet after Giuliani smear: ‘I express my readiness to testify’

Published

on

A Ukrainian journalist said on Sunday that he would be willing to testify to Congress against President Donald Trump's attorney, Rudy Giuliani.

After Giuliani unleashed a bizarre rant on CNN accusing Democrats of trying to get help from Ukraine in the 2016 election, Ukrainian journalist Serhiy Leshchenko wrote an op-ed exposing the accusation as a lie.

In his op-ed, Leshchenko explains:

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine the Manafort revelations would become fodder for the U.S. elections in 2020. President Trump’s lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, the mouthpiece of this campaign, is not only attempting to rehabilitate Manafort but is also working to undermine U.S. relations with Ukraine, which has been confronting Russian aggression on its own for more than five years. Giuliani and his associates are trying to drag our newly elected president, Volodymyr Zelensky, into a conflict between two foreign political parties, drastically limiting Ukraine’s room for maneuver in respect to the United States, perhaps its most important international partner.

Continue Reading
 

Breaking Banner

Trump is openly colluding with Ukraine to smear Biden

Published

on

President Donald Trump is defending his phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, one that recent media reports suggest may have been made in order to dig up dirt about one of Trump's likeliest and strongest opponents in the 2020 election, former Vice President Joe Biden.

This article first appeared on Salon.

"The Fake News Media and their partner, the Democrat Party, want to stay as far away as possible from the Joe Biden demand that the Ukrainian Government fire a prosecutor who was investigating his son, or they won’t get a very large amount of U.S. money, so they fabricate a story about me and a perfectly fine and routine conversation I had with the new President of the Ukraine," Trump tweeted on Saturday. "Nothing was said that was in any way wrong, but Biden’s demand, on the other hand, was a complete and total disaster. The Fake News knows this but doesn’t want to report!"

Continue Reading
 
 
Help Raw Story Investigate and Uncover Injustice. Join Raw Story Investigates for $1 and go ad-free.
close-image