Andrew Bruskin thinks so.
Even though I read up on this topic from time to time (and yes, I generally do take a side on certain issues), I have generally refrained from writing about this subject matter in the past. Consider this a general re-awakening, of sorts.
This article will be taking a somewhat different approach. Instead of writing about talking points, I would like to briefly discuss what authors, lecturers and fellow activists can do to improve their group’s self-image and how to deal with “the other side” when writing and responding to other individuals.
Disclaimer: while this article is specifically geared towards this subject, the following is also useful in business, politics, law, college, journalism, and any other career or social situation you find yourself in. This advice is universal. Proceed with an open mind.
You have the right to disagree
The important thing to remember is that you always have a right to disagree with someone. Life would be really boring if everyone agreed on an issue. How you react to that disagreement is the important factor. Remember that we all choose how to respond to people. YOU are the one who decides what to say, and YOU are the one who decides how to act. Attacking the individual who is giving information really does not solve anything, except discredit your position among fellow readers.
Investigate all opposing viewpoints and positions
If someone publishes an article or gives a speech on a topic that you disagree with, investigate what that person is saying. Maybe that person has a point. If you still believe that person is incorrect, then write a friendly response as to why you disagree. Writing an opposing response is a powerful tool. Whatever course you do decide to take, try to refrain from name calling. Maintaining your composure and writing a cordial response will go a longer way than carnival barking.
You may have more in common than you think
Don’t close someone off so quickly: you may have more in common with your “opponent” than you think. If you get to know the person, then you may find out you live in the same city, share the same hobbies and a plethora of other similarities. When you start seeing all of these similarities, all of the other disagreements on one single issue start to become minor.
Am I saying you will become friends with everyone who disagrees with you? Absolutely not. All I am saying is to put away your misgivings about a person just because of his or her opinions on one issue and give that person a chance. You never know: it could become a great opportunity, both on a personal and a professional level.
Welcome your dissenters
People naturally believe that having competitors or enemies is a bad thing, but these individuals can give you more publicity than you think. If you write a column that receives a hostile response, take solace that your article is getting attention. It is always better to receive hundreds of negative responses than to receive no response at all. The more comments you receive means the more your article is being circulated.
Don’t take things personally
I think we can come to the conclusion that both sides will never agree with each other on certain issues. We can also accept the fact that there will be people on both sides who have been hurt and will take that hurt out on you. Because of this, they will resort to name calling and sling verbal diatribes. Remember that this person is not responding to YOU, but is reacting to what you say due to past hurts or current circumstances. The bottom line is they are not personally attacking you. If you are the subject of such criticism, be the better person. Do not roll in the mud. Instead, respond with a mature and articulate reply.
Not taking things personally is often the hardest thing to accomplish because we want to be validated. When negativity comes along, our impulse is to quickly respond, normally with another emotional reaction. We want to control the situation. Sometimes, it is just best to walk away from your computer if you feel the need to respond negatively.
The world is a small place and it is only getting smaller with each passing day. You can speak with someone now you would have never met ten or even twenty years ago. The point is you really never know when you will run into someone, or how another person can benefit your life. By deriding an opinion or an idea, you are really just closing yourself off.