Confessions of a Former Thief

What if I said that what you believe is BULLSHIT?

How does it make you feel?  What is your immediate reaction?  More than likely you are feeling defensive. You erect a wall of "defense" to protect your beliefs.  This is a communication barrier.  

Can we break through the barrier?  Sure.  But it is far more efficient to avoid establishing the barrier in the first place.

All of your beliefs are in place because information was presented to you in such a way that you chose to commit, intellectually and emotionally, to that information.  You came to posses the knowledge and commit to its truth.  The beliefs that we have about religion, politics, life etc... Are such because we have accepted the principles and information. We have taken possession of them, so our beliefs are, in a very  real sense, our belongings.  Consider this when you are arguing, or about to argue with someone who has vastly different political ideas.  Think.... Homosexuality, abortion, immigration, taxation, public education etc

These are controversial topics because they always challenge someone's beliefs; so let's start seeing that challenge in its raw form: attempted robbery

I used to talk about controversial topics all the time.  I prided myself on posing a challenge and 'threatening the status quo'.  I arrogantly thought I was just so very brilliant for 'shaking people out of their comfort zone'. (That was one of my tag lines!)

But really, I was just a common burglar.  I was invited into conversation under the pretense that I was going to offer something, but instead I tried to steal something.  I was a Belief Thief.

Anyone who may have perceived me as giving, already had what I was selling  (they already believed it) so all I really did was validate their beliefs by praising their possession (like admiring someone's shoes and saying you have the same ones). Sure I made some connections this way, everyone likes hearing our own ideas echoed back to us, but we didn't do anything to establish a bridge across a divide.  We just celebrated our mutual beliefs, stroked our mutual egos and collaborated to create more division as I kept on trying to rob people without giving them anything.

Thankfully, I eventually realized the pattern because deep down, I knew that I truly did have something valuable to offer.  As it became clearer that I was burning more bridges than I was building, I knew I had to cease, regroup, and find a way to grow.

The solution was this: Give, Don't Take.  Offer something without trying to take anything away. Rather than challenging others to deny or lose what they have (their beliefs) I let them keep it.  I respected their ideas and offered something new.  

When you knock on a door (open a discussion) don't walk in and try to burglarize.  Respect contrasting property (beliefs) and offer something new.  Give instead of taking.  
If you are trying to open people to new ideas, remember that giving will always more effectively alter perspectives because people want new stuff and will happily consider it if they aren't busy erecting walls of defense to protect their property.

When contrasting views frustrate you, remember that it is only because if others aren't committing to our same beliefs, we perceive it as an insinuation that our beliefs are faulty.   What to do?  Get over yourself.  You don't need everyone else to have the same shoes to prove that yours are cool.  Yours are yours and that's cool.  Theirs are theirs and you can suggest a new shoe style without taking the ones they have.

Intellectual flexibility allows us to more clearly understand an opposing view and helps us find something new to offer that can establish a bridge across which our ideas can travel, which is the whole point of expressing them in the first place!

P.S. You can read more about controversial communication in the Belief Thief section of CRUCIAL: Effective Elements of Communication, which you can download for FREE here.

Be a successful communicator!

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