"Won't you be my neighbor?"
Sometimes you encounter people who believe differently than you do. I know, crazy, but let's explore the hypothetical scenario just in case it were to happen.
People may disagree with you about any number of mundane and/or sensitive topics. But what do you do when the topic is something that you believe via science? What do you do when you know a statement to be accurate or disproven given the weight of the empirical evidence and the soundness of the theories?
This is a tricky thing, because science provide a powerful but impartial lens to view the world. In other words, we have very good reasons to believe in particular statements and not in others, and it's easy to forget that not everyone looks through the same lens. How can we best turn a potential argument into an opportunity to share? Here are two tips I've found useful:
- Unless someone asks for your opinion, don't give it. You don't want to be that person that goes around like a wet science blanket, explaining to people why they're wrong.
- If someone asks for your opinion, give it. Be polite and respectful but don't mince words. Trying to shield people from what you think they don't want to hear can itself be a form of disrespect and condescension. But when you respond, don't use "I" - don't make this personal. "The evidence suggests". "Experiments show." "Researchers found." Provide the impartial view as simply as you can. Tell a fun story about the scientists or the work. Connect it to a larger view.
I've found with this strategy that people either start asking a lot more questions, or they file away the info-nugget for processing later. Either way, the conversation rolls smoothly along, no hard feelings.