More

Surprise! People who strongly disagree should just break bread together.

There are 3 questions you should ask someone you disagree with.

Surprise! People who strongly disagree should just break bread together.

Almost everyone has at least one issue they feel strongly about.

Maybe yours is marijuana legalization. Maybe it's abortion. Or maybe it's even an issue that's local to you, like whether your city should put in a trolley.

But somehow, in spite of all the information out there that you've carefully considered, there are all these "weirdos" around who feel differently than you do.


Do you say to yourself, "Ugh. What an idiot, right? How could they possibly arrive at such a different conclusion when the facts are the facts?"

And yet, thinking, caring people disagree with each other all the time. In fact, one forward-thinking lady has an idea so wild, it just might work. Elizabeth Lesser, author of the best-selling "Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow," thinks we should do something radical with people we don't see eye to eye with — take them to lunch.

To understand why, consider the story of two contentious coworkers.

They worked in a small but busy office and often grabbed lunch together. They didn't know each other very well at first, so they only talked about safe topics, like their workload and their families. They really enjoyed the pleasant conversation and company to break up a long work day. They had a few laughs and even began to consider themselves friends.

Image by Karolina Grabowska/Pexels.

Pretty soon, conversations started to get deeper and onto trickier topics. It surprised them both to find they barely agreed on anything. Whatever happened to come up, be it women's rights, unions, gay rights — you name it, they held diametrically opposed views.

They would get in fervent matches of one-upmanship, escalating their pitch and volume until their conversations devolved into shouting matches and then huffy silence.

They stopped inviting each other to lunch. No longer did they speak to each other about anything — not even about their spouses or children. One had no idea when the other's wife fell ill. One was completely in the dark about the challenges the other was going through with her daughter.

Image by Jörg Möller/Pixabay.

And so they sat, with their backs to each other every day at work. They were two humans with the capacity for human caring and connection — not to mention two humans who really could have used a good friend — choosing to not demonstrate it because they were so put off by disagreeing with each other about world issues.

The two coworkers' story is a sad one, but it doesn't have to be like that.

Elizabeth Lesser is on a mission to make people of the world better able to connect with those they have fundamental disagreements with. She points out two of our inner human traits — the "warrior" and the "mystic" — and counsels us on how to set aside the warrior in order to have fulfilling connections. Yep, even with people with whom we think we can't possibly agree on anything.

Lesser wants us to seek out these people in our lives and take them to lunch. While we're there with them, she wants us to bring up these three questions or prompts (and to offer up your responses as well).

1. Share some of your life experiences with me.

More often than not, you're going to be surprised to learn you have some common ground in some aspect. When it comes to children, relationships, caring for aging parents, or other personal items, there is an awful lot of room to find something to connect on.

2. What issues deeply concern you?

Surprise! While you couldn't disagree more when it comes to abortion, maybe you are both on the same side when it comes to the vote your city is taking on its water sourcing (work with me here!). Furthermore, perhaps you're both ready to get more active in alerting your communities. You could be valuable resources to each other. Or something like that.

3. What have you always wanted to ask someone from the other side?

This is a fun exercise in identifying the distortion that can happen when we only listen to people who agree with us. Both of you will probably find that the other's perceptions really need the context you can provide in order to be more accurate. Here's what Lesser and her lunch partner discovered:

"I asked her why her side makes such outrageous allegations and lies about my side. 'What?' she wanted to know. 'Like we're a bunch of elitist, morally-corrupt terrorist-lovers.' Well, she was shocked. She thought my side beat up on her side way more often, that we called them brainless, gun-toting racists, and we both marveled at the labels that fit none of the people we actually know. And since we had established some trust, we believed in each other's sincerity."

Why should anyone take the time to do this when we could be having lunch with people we already agree with?

Lesser's argument for taking the time to do this is compelling. At some point, it becomes untenable for people to only care about and interact with those whose ideas they like. The world around us, in its everyday operations as well as coming together to solve big picture problems, needs us to learn how to be more inclusive.

In addition to her three questions, Lesser recommends setting some easy ground rules to make your lunch date go smoothly. Her full talk is worth the watch.

So what about the sad story of the two coworkers who couldn't get along?

This may have been a plot twist you saw coming, but that's actually just how their story could have gone. Luckily, Ruth and Antonin took a different path. That's right — I'm talking about Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia. Instead of focusing on their differences and turning their backs on each other, they spent their energy together on their similarities. And for a great many years, they enjoyed a wonderful friendship that defied everyone's expectations.

Scalia and Ginsburg. Supreme Court Justices and the ultimate "odd couple." Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

True
Firefox

With the COVID-19 Pandemic, Black Lives Matter protests nationwide, and the countdown to the 2020 Presidential election, there has been a flurry of online activity.

We're tweeting about these events, we're sharing news articles about them on Facebook, and we're uploading live videos as events happen during protests. These platforms are being used to communicate, to express outrage, to share what we're witnessing on the streets, to debate ideas, and to campaign for candidates.

This isn't new, of course. Social media has long been a way to get information out quickly.

"When the plane landed on the Hudson, that was one of the first events that was social media first," says Kate Starbird, associate professor in the Department of Human Centered Design and Engineering at the University of Washington. "The news went out via social media first because it was faster. People could actually see what was going on long before people could write a story about it or put it on the news."

Social media has also been lauded as a way for people to get information from a variety of perspectives — everybody can share what they see.

But, she adds, "the problem is that there is some inherent risk and vulnerabilities in getting things at that speed because speed can drive misinformation and mistakes." It's also incredibly difficult to know if all of these voices on social media are real. Some of those accounts might be deliberately trying to spread disinformation.

Disinformation spreads quickly during and after natural disasters, mass shootings, and other dangerous events.

Wade Austin Ellis on Unsplash

In fact, for more than a decade, Starbird has been researching how misinformation and disinformation spread online during these kinds of crises.

During a crisis, there's a lot of uncertainty and fear, so we start theorizing — or rumoring — on what to do and that rumoring can create misinformation. Then, political actors can either create additional misinformation or amplify existing rumors to spread false information for political reasons. "When there's fear and anxiety, we're acutely vulnerable to politicization, misinformation, and disinformation," she says.

For example, climate science denialists can use natural disasters — such as hurricanes or winter storms — to amplify false information that supports their cause.

Keep Reading Show less
Lauren-Ashley Howard/Twitter, Wikimedia Commons

The lengths people will go to discredit a political figure—especially a Black female politician—is pretty astounding. Since Kamala Harris was announced as Joe Biden's running mate, we've seen "birther" claims that she wasn't really born in the U.S. (she was), alternating claims that she's too moderate or too radical (which can't both be true), and a claim apparently designed to be a "gotcha"—that her ancestor in Jamaica was a slave owner.

According to Politifact, the claim that Harris descends from a slave owners is likely true. In their rather lengthy fact check on her lineage, which has not revealed any definitive answers, they conclude, "It seems possible that Kamala Harris is as likely a descendant of a slave-owner as she is an enslaved person." But that doesn't mean what the folks who are using that potential descencency as a weapon seem to think it means.

Keep Reading Show less
Mozilla
True
Firefox

When I found out I was pregnant in October 2018, I had planned to keep the news a secret from family for a little while — but my phone seemed to have other ideas.

Within just a few hours of finding out the news, I was being bombarded with ads for baby gear, baby clothes and diapers on Facebook, Instagram and pretty much any other site I visited — be it my phone or on my computer.

Good thing my family wasn't looking over my shoulder while I was on my phone or my secret would have been ruined.

I'm certainly not alone in feeling like online ads can read your mind.

When I started asking around, it seemed like everyone had their own similar story: Brian Kelleher told me that when he and his wife met, they started getting ads for wedding rings and bridal shops within just a few weeks. Tech blogger Snezhina Piskov told me that she started getting ads for pocket projectors after discussing them in Messenger with her colleagues. Meanwhile Lauren Foley, a writer, told me she started getting ads for Happy Socks after seeing one of their shops when she got off the bus one day.

When online advertising seems to know us this well, it begs the question: are our phones listening to us?

Keep Reading Show less

I saw this poster today and I was going to just let it go, but then I kept feeling tugged to say something.

Melanie Cholish/Facebook

While this poster is great to bring attention to the issue of child trafficking, it is a "shocking" picture of a young girl tied up. It has that dark gritty feeling. I picture her in a basement tied to a dripping pipe.

While that sounds awful, it's important to know that trafficking children in the US is not all of that. I can't say it never is—I don't know. What I do know is most young trafficked children aren't sitting in a basement tied up. They have families, and someone—usually in their family—is trafficking them.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Sometimes a boycott succeeds when it fails.

Although the general aim of a boycott is to hurt profits, there are times when the symbolism of a boycott gives birth to a constant, overt and irreversible new optic for a company to nurse.

When the boycott of Facebook began in June and reached its peak in July, it gathered thousands of brands who vocalized their dissatisfaction with the platform.

The boycott, under the hashtag #StopHateForProfit, was launched by civil rights groups. By July brands were fully behind removing their ad spending - resulting in a small financial dent for the social media juggernaut, but a forceful bludgeoning in the press.


Keep Reading Show less