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How to talk to people you can't identify with

Connecting with someone who seems completely different to you can be challenging. The hope for a good life demands a daily, achievable commitment: to develop the skills needed to communicate with each other, not necessarily to agree, but to be able to collaborate.

awareness of the condition of humanity

We all have needs, we all suffer, we all want to feel connected. We want the same opportunities in life. We don’t want to be treated like numbers, or like a means to an end. We don’t want someone to play on our emotions. We are all vulnerable to damaging dogma and propaganda. We want the freedom to express ourselves. We all have our moments of weakness. We all have our biases.


Avoid forcing an opinion on someone or trying to change them. Opinions and change are personal and reflect a journey; these can’t be easily or completely understood by someone who doesn’t have insight into this journey.

Speak your truth appropriately

We often forgo speaking our minds for various reasons, or speak it with such force that it damages connection and mutual understanding. Knowing whether you should speak up, when to do so, what to say and how to say it is an art that comes with insight, mindfulness and experience. A good starting point is to make sure that you focus on the the true purpose of the conversation — if what you really want is to understand and be understood, then create the grounds for that to happen.

Don’t immediately categorize

While this way of thinking helps organize the world around us into something we can understand, predict and respond to knowingly, it also lends itself to misinterpretation and prejudice. Being aware of our own limitations of thought is a good counter to this weakness. Address your biases by reading from, or listening to, a wide variety of people who are experienced and open-minded.

Be aware of communication barriers

These affect our conversations generally, whether we’re talking to strangers or life-long partners. Barriers to meaningful conversation could include biases, ego, trauma, overwhelming emotion, low energy, hidden agendas, unresolved issues, lack of time or attention, being unaware of (or dishonest about) a lack of information, or having different conversational styles, personalities or cultures.

Allow yourself (and others) the opportunity to change & develop

We are all capable of being conditioned by our communities, in good ways and in bad ways. We are all capable of change and can recondition ourselves for the better or the worse. We are inspired by examples of great shifts in belief and culture generated by people who voiced universal truths with conviction, stood by their principles and were willing to risk for what they believed in.

Don’t take it personally when someone thinks differently or challenges your opinions

If you can understand your brain’s wariness of novel things and make the mind-shift towards celebrating diversity instead of seeing it as a threat, you will be more open-minded and curious towards someone who is very different from you.


Could a common morality exist among all people, one beyond what divides us? What would our world be like if everyone could agree on such a common morality and be guided by it as a way to survive and flourish, seeing strength rather than weakness in our diversity?

We are not machines, but allow ourselves to become machine-like when we are rigid in our assumptions and behaviours. When we can sit with total strangers and be open-minded and curious, willing to find common ground for the greater good, we make progress possible.

The greater good is a world filled with people who are aware: resources are finite; all the power in the world will not satisfy the greedy; we are all connected to each other; a choice by one affects all; people, plants and creatures are not possessions nor our tools but fellow living beings. We need to find common ground and connect with each other if we are to overcome the greed, dogma, propaganda, ignorance and suffering that threatens us all.


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