Rack is the Co-Founder of Beyond Civility and the retired Chief Circuit Mediator at the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
When Krista Ramsey wrote a human interest story for the Enquirer about two women I cared about who were pursuing a controversial civic project, she included all the opposing views that were making the topic difficult. When asked, she explained her rule was to always “give the devil his due.” If you don’t acknowledge the reasons others disagree, she argued, advocates are more likely to roil up in opposition. Intellectually, I knew she was right; emotionally, I didn’t want the opposing opinions included.
As a mediator I know how powerful a negotiating device it is for one side to begin their pitch with recognition of the other side’s arguments. It’s quite disarming, yet it’s rarely done. Why? What’s lost?
Imagine yourself a gun control opponent. What would you hear and feel if your ideological opposite said, “Joe, I understand you see little to no evidence that laws restricting gun possession will reduce violent crime. I also get that liberty that isn’t vigorously protected can quickly be lost.” Imagine further that the next sentence didn’t start with, “But…” and instead was followed by silence that invited you to speak next. Would you assume this gun control advocate was agreeing with your point of view or caving to your arguments? More likely, you would start to think maybe this is someone with whom you could have a reasonable conversation.
Hypothesis: In simply acknowledging another’s point of view there is no loss, just gain…in trustworthiness and credibility.