At a recent Engage at the Bush Center event presented by NexPoint, Utah Governor Spencer Cox, a Republican, and Kansas Governor Laura Kelly, a Democrat, had a highly entertaining conversation on the art of disagreeing better moderated by KERA THINK’s Krys Boyd.
Missed the event? Watch the recording here.
Here are FIVE takeaways on how to disagree better.
- DON’T MAKE FALSE ASSUMPTIONS. When sitting down with someone on the opposite side of an issue, Governor Cox mentions that “most of the time we’ll find out we’re not as far apart as we think we are. And that’s where there’s real opportunity for solutions.” Affective polarization is when one party negatively assumes that the opposing party is the anthesis of what the initial party deems to be logical. The median democrat and median republican are not too far off from one another.
- FIND COMMON GROUND. Governor Kelly reminds us that you “can always find that one nugget of common ground and you can build so much on just one thing you have in common.” If we want to have productive conversations, we must actively listen to find common ground.
- NO BLANKET STATEMENTS. Making a negative political statement to represent a whole group is not productive in any way. Governor Cox says “you can’t say you don’t trust the other side because they are evil and they want to destroy—there is nothing more un-American than that. If you hate half our country, you don’t love our country.”
- TAKE A BREAK FROM THE CONVOS GOING NOWHERE. Everyone encounters extremists from both political parties. And when we encounter those who are unwilling to listen with civility, “there really isn’t a whole lot of reason to have conversations. I would go look for others to have those conversations with,” says Governor Kelly. “It’s best to take a deep breath and end the “discussion.”
- ADDRESS THE IDEAS, NOT THE INDIVIDUAL. “Look, I’m not going to attack you as an individual. That’s deeply important in preserving everything that has made our country great,” says Governor Cox. He continues that America “needs to understand how to engage people without turning them off.” Don’t automatically deem the other individual as an enemy, nor should you leave the door open to become their enemy from using abrasive language.
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