How to Communicate with Conservatives

Principles for liberals, to get what you want.

Background photo by Bermix Studio on Unsplash

Preparing to Speak

Before engaging in conversation with conservatives, you must prepare yourself emotionally for the experience. Enter conversations knowing that conservatives will not feel the same way about issues as you do, nor will they care that you feel a certain way about issues. And decide not to be offended by this; their not-caring about your feelings is not a reflection of heartlessness rather a reflection of pragmatism (which pragmatism is precisely what you lack and what you need to get what you want). Further, decide that you are going to be positive, gracious, and productive, even if the person you are speaking to is not. Remember, your goal is not to win arguments; your goal is to win conservatives. So employ humility, restraint, and tact, and mentally prepare yourself to communicate effectively.

Speaking

When speaking to conservatives, be positive and constructive, keep it simple, remain on topic, offer solutions, ask questions, and concede. Also, learn how to reason.

Be positive, courteous, and constructive.

Although it is sometimes necessary to criticize or deconstruct, avoid doing so excessively (and always use minimal necessary force), and avoid being rude, demeaning, patronizing, or insulting. Further, consider that conservatives value order and hierarchy, so, where relevant and appropriate, respect the status of the individual or group with whom you are speaking, even if you find them deplorable. Doing so will demonstrate to them your sensitivity to their values, which will likely endear them — even if only minimally — to your cause.

Keep it simple.

Whereas liberals tend to think in loops and abstracts, conservatives tend to think in lines and concretes. So go from 1 to 2 to 3, not from 1 to 4 to 29, and especially not from 1 to 12/6 to (3⁴−54)/9.

Remain on topic.

Given their higher levels of openness, liberals tend to be creative. As such, ideas tend to move freely about their minds, forming connections that are often difficult for conservatives to immediately comprehend. This makes it easy for liberals to veer off topic, often without realizing it, and for conversations between liberals and conservatives to derail. What’s more, since conservatives tend to think linearly, they may perceive veering as avoidance or deflection, thus engendering suspicion about the motives of those who veer. So remain on topic.

Offer solutions.

If you want people to do things, you have to enable them — and you have to make it easy for them too. You cannot simply make demands of conservatives and expect them to follow through; they won’t. (Would you?) As such, for every problem that you identify, propose a simple solution and offer your absolute assistance; otherwise, conservatives will both perceive and dismiss you as just another problem. Further, conservatives value resourcefulness and independence, so the more you can demonstrate to them that you’re resourceful and independent, the more likely they will be to support you.

Ask questions.

Asking questions is a sign of trust, humility, and respect; it demonstrates that you lack knowledge that the other person has, and that you are willing to learn from them. Conservatives are practical, and they like to be useful. They also like people who are useful. So give them an opportunity both to be useful and to make you (more) useful by asking them questions relevant to their interests and expertise. If they can teach you something new or help you solve some problem, even something small, they will feel fulfilled. And if you can demonstrate gratitude for their assistance, they will be much more willing — and therefore much more likely — to help you solve other problems. Further, and when appropriate, asking questions enables you to organically counter their responses without immediately placing them on the defensive; indeed, if they know that you’re trying to learn from them (and not trap them or prove them wrong), they will be more willing to consider your objections (and maybe even learn from you too).

Concede.

Let conservatives win a few. If your goal is to demonstrate superiority, then you will try to win every point of every argument, which will produce only stubborn and even hostile responses to your claims. However, if your goal is to demonstrate unity and a willingness to work together to solve problems (which you have to do if you want to solve problems), then you must give credit where credit is due, admit your shortcomings, and concede your failures. Conservatives value honesty and humility, so you needn’t fear the consequences of being honest and humble; they will support you if they know that your intentions are pure.

Learn how to reason.

Per my observations, liberals tend to make bad arguments, and conservatives are generally intolerable of bad arguments. For example, liberals tend to declare, in the absence of supporting evidence, that the United States of America is systemically racist. In response, conservatives ask for supporting evidence, to which liberals respond, “You’re all fucking racists.”

  1. Avoid making ad hominem attacks. In terms of personality, liberals tend to be higher than conservatives in neuroticism. This means that liberals tend to experience both more and greater negative emotion than conservatives do. Coupled with their higher levels of openness, then (and thus tending to interpret the world through their emotions), liberals are more likely to experience distress when encountering people they find deplorable or information they find disagreeable. Thus, it can be easy for liberals in such situations to feel as if they are being personally attacked (even though they’re not), which feeling can cause them to defend themselves in kind, with personal attacks. In logic and reasoning, such personal attacks are called “ad hominem” (Latin, “to the person”) attacks. However, ad hominem attacks are irrelevant in arguments, as they fail to address the facts of the arguments. For example, a conservative may list evidence of only two sexes in humans, to which a (sensitive) liberal may respond, “Transphobe!” This response is useless to the argument, though, as it fails to address the conservative’s claims as well as deflects the liberal’s responsibility of refuting the conservative’s evidence. What’s more, people tend to employ ad hominem attacks when they are defeated and have nothing left to argue, so such attacks are usually dead giveaways of error, ignorance, and incompetence. So avoid making them.💡 If you are easily offended by information that you find disagreeable, simply recognize this as a personal tendency and not as an indication of malice by others.
  2. Use data to support your arguments. As has become the motto of conservatives (thanks to Ben Shapiro), “facts don’t care about your feelings.” However, the truth of this statement is universal, so play conservatives at their own damn game and use facts to support your claims. Conservatives will gladly engage you in battle (discussion), and you will earn their respect for dealing them a good fight (argument). “Good form!” they will all exclaim as you smite them with data.

Petitioning

When petitioning conservatives, begin with thanks and praise, establish commonality, introduce the problem, expound on the problem, offer a solution, and ask for input and feedback.

1. Begin with thanks and praise.

Set the tone of your petitions by expressing gratitude and offering praise relevant to the circumstances or your aims. For example, “Thank you, senator. We appreciate your willingness to engage us on this challenging topic. You raise some great points.” Doing so will open the hearts of those you petition by demonstrating to them that you recognize their efforts and are willing to play nice. If you show them that you respect them and value their political and ideological contributions (or even just their time and attention), they will be more likely to return these sentiments. If you demonstrate to conservatives that you are their ally, they will be less likely to regard you as their enemy.

2. Establish a baseline commonality.

Fundamentally, liberals and conservatives want the same things: health, happiness, peace, prosperity, freedom, and fulfillment. So identify in your arguments the relevant fundamental commonality between you and the people you are petitioning and establish this as a baseline value for your discussions.

3. Introduce the problem.

In plain and simple terms, and without patronizing, demeaning, or blaming, simply state the problem.

4. Expound on the problem.

Concisely, explain why the problem matters — both to you and to the people you are petitioning. Explain how the problem stifles or is inconsistent with your baseline common value.

5. Offer a solution.

Demonstrate your commitment to solving the problem, and enable the people you are petitioning to act on your ideas, by presenting a plan.

6. Ask for input and feedback.

Provide an opportunity for the people you are petitioning to own the solution to the problem (thereby increasing the probability of actually solving the problem) by asking for input, and demonstrate humility and integrity by soliciting feedback.

Examples

What follows are example petitions that employ the steps I have just described. Note that these examples are illustrative — meaning, I am not asserting or endorsing courses of action; I am merely illustrating language.

Abortion

Gun Control

Law Enforcement

Editor, Designer | mitchellferrin.com

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