I grew up in the Westboro Baptist Church. Here's why I left
What's it like to grow up within a group of people who exult in demonizing ... everyone else? Megan Phelps-Roper shares details of life inside America's most controversial church and describes how conversations on Twitter were key to her decision to leave it. In this extraordinary talk, she shares her personal experience of extreme polarization, along with some sharp ways we can learn to successfully engage across ideological lines.
Be deliberate about cultivating empathy for "enemies." Before getting into a conversation full of intense disagreement, you can lay the groundwork for success by making deliberate efforts to understand the perspective of groups with ideas you oppose. Whether Republicans or Democrats, city-dwellers or rural farmers, consider the groups you tend to write off. Who are they? Given their experiences, can you understand why they hold the positions they do? What ideas do you share? When you're intentional about searching for understanding and common ground, you’ll be better at engaging people with opposing ideas on the merits — instead of the mental caricatures humans often form of one another.
Practice engaging when the stakes are low. Remember that the strategies mentioned in this talk aren't natural; they're skills we have to learn and develop in ourselves. Disagreements are common, but the more intense the disagreement, the harder it is to remain calm enough to engage effectively. To practice, be on the lookout for low-stakes disagreements that appear in your life. Answering an angry tweet from a stranger requires less time and emotional energy than staying cool in a long conversation with a close friend about a divisive subject. Reaching out when the stakes are low strengthens our ability to engage when stress levels and potential costs are higher.