Arguments are rarely productive when we feel we aren’t being heard or understood. We tend to keep repeating ourselves, usually at higher volumes! If you want to stop someone from shouting and improve the chances of their listening to you, first demonstrate that you understand their point.
In Back-to-Backs, high profile advocates of opposing positions on important legal or public policy issues agree to articulate as convincingly as possible the other side’s views. They must keep at it until the person on the other side says “I couldn’t have said it better myself.”
Back-to-Backs are challenging, as you can imagine, but they’re fun, engaging and informative. They also demonstrate a skill notably lacking in today’s polarized political climate: the ability to understand and show respect for someone else’s position even while believing and advocating to the contrary. Trying on the shoes of others, especially those with whom we most strongly disagree, can open minds and soften hearts.
Doing this requires self-confidence, courage and determination. We are grateful to all of our participants for stepping forward to demonstrate this depolarizing exercise, and hope others – politicians and citizens alike – will follow their example and try it themselves.