This is our third Courteous Conversation. They are both a little nervous. Kelly had even called Laura beforehand to explain that she only asked her to do this because she trusted their friendship.
Kelly is very pregnant, which adds some gravity to a conversation about Abortion. She is pro-life and her friend Laura is pro-choice. They’re both young mothers and their children play together in the next room as they talk. During the course of the conversation, one of Kelly’s children has a pretty bad accident, and we stop the cameras while Kelly cleans and Laura gets a change of clothing from her own daughter’s room that they can borrow.
Of course it’s all very civil, and at the end, while we ask them to talk about how the conversation felt, Laura says something very interesting: “It’s nice to say how I feel about things and have someone want to listen to me without them feeling defensive or that I am attacking everything that they stand for.”
And that seems to get to the heart of these conversations. These polarizing issues are polarizing partially because they’re more than abstract ideas or potential policies. These issues represent more than what people think is true.
The thing is that some of our ideas are more potent because they come to represent us. They change how people view us and how we see ourselves. And so it is no wonder these issues are polarizing and contentious. Because we’re not just dealing with the issues themselves. We’re dealing with identities. And so if you condemn someone’s platform, you do more than refute their beliefs, you refute them. You don’t just weaken their platform, you weaken their self-perception.
Realizing these conversations are dealing with more than the ideas being discussed can help us find patience rather than passion and generosity rather than vindication. Not only because we care about others, but because we can see within ourselves that our feelings run much deeper than the supposed facts we espouse.
We can know that we are often so stubborn about our beliefs and so sure of our position because we are insecure about ourselves. The more rigid we are about an issue often relates to how vulnerable we feel. That’s one thing I’ve seen in these conversations. That people who are comfortable with themselves are much more open to ambiguity and complexity and even much better at being wrong.
Go ahead and listen to Kelly and Laura talk about abortion. Kelly interviews Laura, and so you can understand better what a pro-choice perspective might be like.
Other Courteous Conversations: