We’ve all been there — going back and forth, arguing a point to no avail. What if you stopped trying to persuade people and instead learned how to engage people, to listen to their point of view and let them persuade themselves? We’ve found a remarkable, research-based strategy that helps people change their own minds. See the end of this post for a video demonstrating the technique.
Today’s post is from our intern and canvassing coordinator, Tom Samuels. Tom has discovered an extraordinary communication tool that transforms how canvassing is done and provides an approach to communication that is also relevant to talking with a friend, testifying at a City Council meeting, or writing a letter to the editor. The video at the end of this post will convince you that you will benefit from learning these skills. Also learn more below about our June 25 training, and RSVP here right now.
Before we turn it over to Tom: we have a book group on July 6, focused on gentrification, with the book now in stock at Collected Works. Also, the last chance to make your own tile for the Wall of Love is this Sunday, June 18. Click here for details on these and other coming events and opportunities. And now, to Tom’s post:
Tom Samuels: I’m sure many of you have experienced the following: you have a conversation with a friend, a neighbor, or a family member on a political topic on which you disagree. As things progress, it becomes less of a conversation and more of an argument. You feel everything you are saying makes complete sense: it is logical, factual, and yet unconvincing. You can’t conceive of how someone else can feel differently. But it seems the harder you try to make your point, the less you are getting through. In the end, the two of you give up, both of you feeling frustrated.
Too much of our political dialogue resembles this scenario. And so we often we gather together only with people who agree with us on almost everything so that we can feel safe. We cut ourselves off from experiencing other people — their values, stories, and feelings. We give up on making our democracy work.
The Deep Canvassing approach can change that. The aim of Deep Canvassing is to change the way we talk to each other about politics. It’s based on respect rather than disdain, listening rather than telling, community rather than rupture. In 2008, when Proposition 8 passed in California, banning same sex marriage, a group of LGBTQ activists gathered together knowing that something radical had to be done. What they decided to do was to go to the doors of people who voted against them or didn’t vote at all and, instead of telling them that they were wrong, have a conversation with them.
They asked people to talk about their values and tell their stories. And canvassers shared their values and stories as well. All of this was done with respect and without judgment. What they found was that canvassing in this way, with conversations lasting on average 10 minutes, people often changed their opinions, not because they were told to, but because given the chance and space to talk about the issue out loud, they saw that their values and interests aligned with the values and interests of the LGBTQ community. People weren’t persuaded: they persuaded themselves. All they needed was someone to give them respect and space so that they could talk about the issue and figure it out for themselves.
This kind of change is durable. A study from researchers at UC Berkeley and Stanford shows that unlike political advertising or regular political canvassing where there is no conversation, just a plea to vote for a certain candidate, Deep Canvassing can change people’s minds in a way that lasts a long time.
We are launching a Deep Canvassing campaign here in Santa Fe at 3pm on June 25 at 1420 Cerrillos Road. RSVP here for that event. Retake has partnered with Chainbreaker to support their Equity Summer campaign, in addition to Earth Care, Somos Un Pueblo Unido, New Energy Economy, Indivisible, and Democratic Socialists. Click here for details on the campaign and the partnership. On the 25th, there will be a short training, and then those who want to canvass will go door-to-door, talking with fellow Santa Feans about this issue: that most vulnerable citizens in our city, a city with progressive values, are not protected or given their fair share of city resources. Those who want to learn Deep Canvassing to use in other contexts will remain behind to discuss other roles in support of the Equity Summer campaign.
You can’t do much about Trump. But you can do something about our city. This is a big opportunity to make a difference. Not only that, but you will learn how to have conversations with anyone in your life in a way where both sides feel heard and respected — and in a way where you might actually bring them to your side. Our democracy won’t work if all we do is talk. We need to listen as well.