Gov. Spencer Cox has challenged Utahns to be more curious and less combative. How have we responded?
Social media references to #DisagreeBetter usually seem to be made with either derision or suspicion. But whatever we think of the governor, he’s right that the more toxic brand of division is one of today’s biggest threats to America.
I used to think that hearing out my political opponents would only embolden them. But I’ve discovered that learning where they are coming from helps me to be not less, but more persuasive in fighting for what I believe in.
If by disagreeing better you compromise your principles, you’re doing it wrong.
My friend Daryl Davis spoke at the Faith Matters conference here in Salt Lake City a few weeks ago. He is a Black man who attends Ku Klux Klan rallies. Even in this extreme example of a disagreement, Davis tries to first talk with and listen to KKK members instead of yelling at them or shunning them, though he’d be justified in doing so. By using the kind of approach that the governor is asking us to try, he has helped over 200 people renounce their racist ideology. I’m not suggesting we should seek out members of hate groups to influence, but Davis shows the power of separating the ideology from the person, and he achieves an outcome that he arguably couldn’t have done any other way.
There are organizations already working on this — organizations for regular citizens, not politicians — like the Utah chapter of Braver Angels, and the local chapter of Foundation Against Intolerance & Racism, where Davis is on the board of advisors. I’m a member of both, and it’s more engaging than I could have guessed.
Those who give disagreeing better a chance will not only find more faith in humanity, but will discover they are more persuasive and politically effective than they would have thought possible.