Posts in Justice/Activism
How to Win an Argument and Stay Friends

I would like to first make the disclaimer that I learned most of these the hard way. I have been in numerous arguments with family members and friends who disagreed with my fundamental values and therefore fell victim to many of the heated screaming fights we all wish to avoid. After the results of the election came in however, it was disheartening to see that I could probably count on one hand how many people were having effective debates about policy. To help the flow of ideas travel throughout society I'm going to break down how to argue effectively and stay friends afterward.

Stop having value arguments

One of the things I learned in Speech and Debate was that there are two kinds of debates, value and policy. Value debates revolve around a persons fundamental belief system. An example of a value debate would consist of things like protecting human life is more important than protecting individual freedom or pizza the best food on the planet. These are dangerous debates to have and you need to stay away from them because there is never a "winner". You are never ever going to convince me that pizza is the best food on the planet so do not even try. You can talk to me about how the combination of sauce, cheese, crust, and customizable toppings make pizza untouchable by other dishes and I will scream at you that actually sushi is the best food on the planet and we will go around and around. Obviously this applies to more serious value debates. A Christian and an Atheist will never convince the other that they're right, but that does not mean they can't discuss policy or maintain a friendship.

Start having policy arguments

Policy debates are arguments over what approach to use to solve a problem. THESE are the types of arguments TO have. A Christian and an Atheist may not agree on why the human race exists, but they can come to an agreement or at least have an educated discussion on if prisons should or should not be privatized. These aren't arguments over the "best" type of prison system, the two would never agree. But by picking one type of prison system and discussing the pros and cons a healthy, effective debate about not only if they're effective, but what could done to decrease the amount of items on the cons list, is actually possible. Plus the two can likely stay friends afterward.

Etiquette

Keep in mind though, you cannot be a close minded, uneducated advocate of your side of the debate and expect to win and stay friends. If you haven't read up on the policy you're debating about, it's probably best to just listen because you'll have no choice except to resort to a value debate since your opinion is all you will be able to go off of. And if you are educated you are not an all knowing, all seeing, higher being that can solve all of the world's problems. You need to listen and engage even if you do not agree. Listening does not mean you agree with them, it means you have respect for the discussion.

Also remember to never yell (the first one who does loses), and to never interrupt. Keep in mind the more the other person says, the more fuel you have to cut down and oppose. I'll get into how keeping the other person talking is an effective strategy later. You have a duty as a productive and decent member of society to talk about the issues that are plaguing society with a polite and inclusive tone. If you alienate your "opponent" by calling them names, making them feel belittled, and turning against your cause then YOU JUST LOST. Remember why you're having these debates. It's not simply to spew off how knowledgeable and woke you are to the world so they bow down and do whatever you say. And it definitely is not to divide the country between us vs. them. If you sincerely want change to happen and a discourse to be open, you ALSO need to be open minded, educated, and a decent human being.

P.S. remember that this is much easier to accomplish when you have policy debates because value debates get really heated really fast because someone's fundamental identity is being attacked.

Tips for when you know you're right

This takes some maturity. Remember, with great power comes great responsibility. I for one will not ever try to debate anything sports related because I know virtually nothing about sports despite having been a cheerleader for 14 years. If I ever find myself in a discussion about sports I politely listen to it without offering my analysis because quite frankly I would sound stupid if I spoke up. Keep this in mind when you're debating. If you know virtually nothing about the crisis in Syria then when you find yourself in the midst of an argument you need to turn it into an educational, expository learning experience instead because without having first been educated on a topic you cannot then offer your opinion of it. And you will sound stupid to the other person because uneducated opinions are super easy to identify to a person who is educated on the issue.

With that being said, if you are educated on a topic and believe yourself fit to offer your opinion of it then that's awesome, but you're not entitled to have your opinions listened to and let alone adopted by anyone. Therefore it is MUCH more effective, at least in my experience, to have other people think your opinions are their opinions. The best way to do this is to ask questions as responses. Yes.. I'm telling you to use the Socratic Method to manipulate the person you're talking to into disproving their own argument, but there's a reason why this is so effective... it is non-threatening. "The Socratic method can be used to show someone that they are wrong, or at least imprecise, by getting them to agree with statements that contradict their original assertion". You will likely need to practice this to really get it down, but I promise once you do you will slay. It would take me a whole entire post to explain how to use this to you, and since there are plenty out there that have already done so I'm going to skip over it. A quick guide can be found here.

Also, do not be afraid to stop an argument that turns into one of value. For example, I am a hardcore environmentalist (not a purist though) and I believe that protecting the environment and ecosystems needs to be in the top 3 priories of every single person on the planet. So whenever someone tries to say "Global warming isn't real" or "there are more pressing issues than water pollution" I just politely say "I'm not interesting in discussing if these problems are problems, I believe that they are, I am interested in discussing their solutions so if you're not here to offer your input on policy solutions we can talk about the puppy bowl or Joe Biden memes instead". Nobody will ever convince me that pizza is better than sushi or that we do not have an obligation to protect the environment so why would I let them try and risk losing a friendship over it?

P.S. The deciding factor of if you stay friends or not after an argument is going to depend on your attitude during the argument.

If you want to change values you need to stay friends

Just because I value the environment and my family member doesn't does not mean I need to cut them out of my life. That's immature and irresponsible because then that's one less person in their life who does care. If you really want to change the way society behaves (I listed my 7 sins of society in this post) then you need to show them that they themselves are not society, they are a member in society. When your community and your circle cares a lot about an issue you begin to care a lot about it. If you cut yourself out of their world you have just cut out possibly the only advocate for your values in their community.

With that being said you need to make sure that if you're going to be the advocate for a cause you're doing so in an inclusive way. If you go on a hateful rant that separates you from those who disagree with you you've just now left no opening for them to come over to your side or to adopt your values. Change is really hard and you cannot change someone by trying to first hurt their ego, you need to be inclusive about it. To put it in perspective, it's really difficult to want to join a club when all of the members of the club are giving you dirty looks, calling you names, and think they're better than you. Keep this in mind.

Why I care

The reason why I care so much about how you're arguing is because I really, truly want solutions to start being discussed and dissected. I don't believe the solutions have been thought of yet and with the way I've been seeing people talk to each other after the election results, it doesn't look like any are in the near future. I do have faith though that if we shift the conversation to what we're going to do about the problems that are facing each and every community instead of who to blame for the problems then we will see real and positive change.

 

 

How to Change the World by Changing How You Give

With the holidays rapidly approaching, I found this topic inspiring. In this post I am going to address not only what you can give people that will make you feel good about yourself, but also why you need to first change your mindset and view of how you're currently giving.

Giving shouldn't be about you

We've all seen the Grinch, right? Well I'm not going to rant about the meaning of Christmas to you, but this is the season for gift giving, although these methods should be applied to birthdays and anniversaries as well. If we really get down to the bottom of it the 2 main reasons you are giving gifts is out of social obligation and guilt. Society has told you giving is just what you do on these holidays so you must. Or you give to make yourself feel better about the lack of time you spend with someone, or to feel like a good person, or even because you would feel guilty not giving after receiving a gift. This is all wrong and I'm asking you to open your mind to the idea that gift giving should not be about you, it is always about the receiver.

The problems

Giving to make yourself feel better is like therapy shopping. It's super unhealthy, expensive, wasteful, and to be quite frank, it's pointless. Do you really think all of those hot pink (when anyone who really knows me knows I hate pink) socks I got for Christmas from extended family that I always ended up donating were given with me in mind? No. They wanted to feel better about the fact that they don't spend time with me, while also checking me off of their list of people society said they had to buy a gift for. Don't be this person. Don't buy into materialistic happiness, it's false and empty and there are much better things to spend your money on that I'll get to at the end.

I would also like to point out that I am a minimalist (you can read why here). Therefore I fundamentally believe that buying stuff is one of the quickest ways to make this world a worse place. If you want to make this world a better place you need to be mindful of every purchase because with your dollar you're voting for a cause you believe in.

Also, consumerism is just so bad for the environment that you're destroying the world by buying, and especially by buying new. Every single thing you buy had to be made with materials that were likely made in a way that hurts the environment, then are probably put together with slave labor, then shipped to the U.S. which uses fossil fuels and adds to the already immense pollution problem. Plus it has to be packaged, most likely with plastic, which adds even more pollution. Plus it all ends up in a landfill eventually. The point of me telling you this isn't to depress you, but rather to help put it in perspective that if you want to spend money to buy happiness for another person there are much more long lasting, more fulfilling ways to do so that can also help to change the world.

What to give instead of stuff

Experiences

I always try to give experiences instead of stuff for any gift-giving occasion. For example, for my sister's 16th birthday I got her concert tickets to see our favorite band together. Not only was this not a gift out of guilt for not spending time with her, I instead used it as an opportunity TO spend time with her. Another example would be a few years ago I got my family tickets to ride The Polar Express. We were living in Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon Railway turns into the Polar Express for the holidays. It was so much fun and memories are really the gifts that keep on giving.

Donations

This one is huge if you actually want to make the world a better place instead of just not making it worse like the examples above did. You can give donations to charities in the name of someone else. Personally, if for Christmas my family decided to donate to any of these charities that are helping Syrian refugees instead of giving me a present I would be so thrilled. I have more than I need to survive and there are so many in this world who don't. Also, another tip would be to make donations for your super-stubborn hateful family members and they'll get a thank you card in the mail from the charity. I for one am planning to donate to the Natural Resources Defense Council for my extended family that doesn't believe climate change is real.

Charity Navigation is a great site to help you decide which one you chose to donate to. They have lists for every charity on how they spend their donations and which ones are in the most financial need. They're also trying to start #DonationTuesday as the counterpart to Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Your time

I can already feel a lot of you thinking "well I give socks because I don't have a lot of money and they're inexpensive so you should be grateful I gave you anything". I understand this concept, I really do. If money is tight, or heck even if it's not but you're so busy out there making money that you're never really present with your loved ones, then give your time. Just spend time with the people who love you. If they're expecting a gift then remind them it's time to watch the Grinch and It's A Wonderful Life and probably a documentary about the current crisis in Syria. You also can and should volunteer to make the world a better place. Have a soup-kitchen Christmas where you all donate your time and serve meals to those who need it most. For everyone who is so scared for the future of this country right now, this is how you'll change what course it's on. Again this goes for other holidays, too. I'm trying to plan for my birthday next year for my circle and I to participate in Habitat for Humanity.

When it's okay to give stuff instead

If a person has what they need to survive, they don't qualify in needing materialistic things. However, there are lots of people who do need things. If you, for example, love extreme couponing for the holidays and door buster sales, etc, then great! Donate what you're buying to a shelter, or ship it to disaster relief programs, or to our soldiers over seas. Where I work there is a very large homeless population so I keep goody bags in my car to give out with items like protein bars or whatever snacks I can get super cheap, tampons, thermal blankets (you can buy these in bulk for less than $1 each), and a printed card with the number and information for NAMI, a charity that offers mental illness treatment to vulnerable communities.

And if you simply MUST give, like say for a White Elephant or something similar then give something they can use. Get some coffee from a local roaster, or a bottle of wine, or something similar. Give them something they need or something they can use that would replace something they would buy themselves. If I got a bottle of Pino Nior for Christmas in a White Elephant I'd be stoked, but if I got a reindeer gag gift that poops chocolate sprinkles... not so much.

Make traditions more important than the gifts

So my family is a good example of this I think. We still gave more presents than I would have liked, we were fortunate in that way, but when I look back on all of the Christmas holidays I've spent with them it's the traditions that stand out the most. These are how you build your community. Every year we dedicate a whole entire day just to baking Christmas cookies (my fav desserts in the world). We invite our friends over and everyone makes triple batches of their favorite cookie and everyone leaves with a sampler of all of the different cookies, with usually enough to bring to neighbors, coworkers, etc. This brings the most cheer to a community because if there's one thing we all have in common, it's a love for food. Other traditions my family participates in is driving through neighborhoods on Christmas Eve looking at the Christmas lights, there's a community that has a contest every year for best display and they offer hayrides through it so we do that, and we binge watch Christmas movies and decorate the tree the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I'm sure you have your own traditions you do with your family, but these are what Christmas is about. These are my favorite memories and the only things I look forward to during the holidays.

Santa PSA

I rant about this every single year during the holidays. I understand that Santa is an important tradition for many families and I'm not asking you to give that up. I AM however asking you to ONLY give ONE present to each child from Santa. There are so many children who do not live in a family as privileged as yours. It is not fair and not right for a child to think they were a bad kid because they got one sweater for Christmas while their friend at school got an XBox and 30 other toys. GIVING ISN'T ABOUT JUST YOU AND YOUR FAMILY. If you want to give a bunch of gifts, even though I've explained that they'd rather have an experience, then make them from you and just one from Santa. Okay, rant over.

How to break the news

So if this post has been at all convincing then you're going to need to tell those in your circle why they're not getting a physical, material gift this year. There are a few ways you can break it to them. First, you could simply send them this post so they, too understand what you now know. Second, you calmly explain to them that they already have everything they need and your love for them cannot possibly be explained in a gift, but rather your experiences, your time, and your gratitude. This is also a good time to bring up that love and support is not synonymous with consumption. Thirdly, if they're kicking and screaming you can still buy them an experience. As a child I would have loved to go on the Polar Express instead of getting the presents much like the socks I mentioned earlier. If my circle would have decided that they were all going to pitch in for tickets instead of buying socks, that would have been much more meaningful because quite frankly I could not tell you more than maybe 5 Christmas presents I received as a kid, but I can explain to you all of the experiences I got instead.

I know traditions are hard to break and I'm not saying throw all of your traditions away. I'm simply saying that if you replace some of your traditions with new ones that make memories you'll notice an improvement in your family dynamic. I'm constantly hearing how this country "just doesn't have any good, old-fashioned family values" and how that's what's wrong with it. If you truly believe that, or at least believe it's important, then changing how you give really could change the world.