Politics. Religion. Salad dressing. There are a few topics that ignite heated, emotional arguments. With the opening of the AMNH Dinosaur Gallery at COSI, and its emphasis on evolution, some team members may be faced with skeptical - and even hostile - reactions and comments. While there are no perfect universal techniques, over the years I have developed a few guidelines that might prove useful:
- Any person at COSI is our guest, and we treat our guests with respect and hospitality.
- This isn't personal. This isn't an argument. It's not about winning or losing. We don't need to convince anyone of anything. We're here to share what we've learned through the scientific process.
- We are just a mouthpiece for the evidence. It's not "I believe such-and-such" but the much more dispassionate "The evidence shows such-and-such".
- Any open, honest question should be answered. If someone has a specific question, answer it to the best of your knowledge, and leave it at that. Don't take that as an opportunity to go on the attack. Sometimes the best offense is a good defense.
- You're not just talking to the person in front of you, but to all the people within earshot.
- If a conversation isn't going anywhere, pivot. Share or show something they might find interesting within the gallery.
Like I said, there's never a perfect approach, but if you find yourself in a potentially confrontational conversation, it's up to you to de-escalate the situation and put the focus back on where it should be: science has revealed the beautiful, complex world around us, and we're here to show it off.