by Julia S from tOSU
One unique thing about college is that it creates an excellent atmosphere to share and discuss ideas, even controversial ones relating to things like politics and religion.
These questions, developed by Stand to Reason founder Greg Koukl, and expanded upon in his book, Tactics, are great ways to navigate hot topic conversations. They are, as follows:
- What do you mean by that?
- How did you come to that conclusion?
- Have you ever considered…?
If someone brings up their opinion on a controversial issue, the average person might want to either:
- Steer the conversation away from anything political or religious ASAP
- Lunge into a list of reasons for supporting the opposite view
But Koukl’s questions offer up option #3: Taking the time to learn about why they think that way. Maybe they have reasons you’ve never considered before, or maybe upon asking them a few neutral questions you’ll both learn that he/she may not have thought some aspects of their argument through yet. It’s a great way to not only learn something new, but maybe also politely challenge someone’s point of view without humiliating them. People like to talk about what they think, and it immediately mellows out the conversation if you show you care about really understanding what they think while also avoiding the accusation of putting words in their mouth. Immediately throwing back reasons why they’re wrong will only result in aggressive defense from them, since they’ll feel subject to blatant public undermining of their opinion.
A very rudimentary template of the tactics in use could be as follows:
A: You know, I really think that _____.
B. That’s an interesting thought. Could you expand on what you mean by that? I want to make sure I understand your point of view.
A. Sure. I just really feel that _________.
B. Okay, I think I get it. May I ask how you came to that conclusion?
A. Well, I’ve observed that _________.
B. That’s a unique perspective. If you don’t mind, have you ever considered…?
Of course, in real life the conversation would be a lot more fleshed out (and much less scripted :-P). If at any point you feel like you’ve found a potential flaw in someone’s logic, using these questions can help them realize for themselves if they happen to have taken an illogical turn in their reasoning without grinding them into a fine powder over it.
The bottom line is that if either interlocutor gets angry, no one wins.
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