December 14, 2015

Teaching Your Children About Tolerant Talk

We live in a day and age of ever increasing polarization. In the last year alone in the country issues like increased political polarity, racial tensions, same sex marriage laws and religious freedom issues have all been on the upswing. News headlines fuel debates about racially driven police violence, extreme positions on immigration, and divisive rhetoric against religious organizations and the positions they take. Our kids are wondering if this behavior and ever increasing rhetoric is ever going to stop and parents don’t know what to tell them. Here are 5 steps to improve your children’s tolerance and understanding about others they share the world with.


  1. Broaden Your Pool of Understanding
  • Many of our differences simply come from the fact that we’ve been living in a much more excluded life.
  • Try to meet people outside your normal groups of people.
  • How many Muslim friends does your family have?
  • How much do you know about the Muslim religion?
  • Don’t argue a point you don’t know personally.
    • Many of us today get our information from various sources online and yet we have no real experience with the topic from our own world. For example arguing the lack of safety of Muslims when we don’t personally know any is pretty shallow. Just like arguing Mormons are racist even though you’ve never personally experienced racism in a Mormon culture.
    • Prejudice and bias are best spread by people who just keep regurgitating the party line without being truly informed or involved.
  • Gather data from other experts in the field.
  • Separate the difference between opinion and facts
  • Listen to what the experts are truly saying not just what the extremists are saying.


  1. Avoid Being Overly Simplistic, Sensational or Sensitive
  • Simplistic
    • We live in a complex world, so answers that seem too simple usually are.  Muslims aren’t all good or bad. There’s not just one great candidate and things aren’t usually right or wrong.
  • Sensational
    • Usually when something sounds too good to be true, it is. Any time someone needs to make a more sensationalist approach to explain what they’re doing than you can bet that the “gloss and glitter” is covering up something.
    • In today’s media and market driven economy the extremists tend to get the most attention, so people move to the extremes to get noticed. The problem is that extremists have a motivation to be extreme and that doesn’t usually inspire accuracy of data.
    • The truth however does not lie in the extreme positions but usually more to the middle.
    • So gather data that is more neutral and complete, than sensational.
    • Watch out for the language of absolutes like they always, never, every single one. Or anyone that speaks with such confidence that it doesn’t allow other positions to be heard.
  • Sensitive
    • Don’t take offense when others are too simplistic in their interpretations or too sensational in their positions of you.
    • Buddha, “Don’t take offense, even when it is offered.”
    • Don’t spend your time arguing their ignorance but instead


  1. Avoid The Online Pile On!
  • Online Comment boards are the most destructive and ugly place to find information and validation.
  • Only the extremes go there to try to get validated.
  • Research shows that we are much more likely to say things online that we would never say face to face. So that ends up eschewing the conversation immensely.
  • Don’t participate in online pile ons.
  • Remember that ‘angry is the most viral emotion” so your anger is what will spread the fastest online, not your compassion, acceptance and patience.
  • Remember that just because you have an opinion doesn’t mean you need to share it…and if you share it, it doesn’t mean you need to belittle others.
  • Remember you can understand others and not agree. You can voice your opinion and still be civil. People can strongly agree and not have to invalidate as a human because they disagree.


  1. Let Your Values and Principles Govern How You Talk
  • Many of us just use our values and principles to determine what we are going to defend but we don’t use the same principles to determine how we will go about interacting with others we don’t agree with.
  • For example… Many might not agree with decisions that others make in their lives based on religious beliefs or values (We might be worried about nationally security and protection of the borders. We’re trying to protect our values and principles as an American. But we then do so by going against our other values like decency, fairness, respect and tolerance by calling names).
  • If we’re going to use our values and principles to argue our positions in this world then we better spend more time actually understanding what our values and principles are.
  • In the end people are much more willing to listen when they sense that we not only believe what we’re saying but also when they see that we live all of our values, not just our favorite few.
  • We can love another person and disagree with them.


  1. Build The Bridges That You Can Build
  • Defer to face-to-face bridge building instead of over the internet or social media.
  • Basically we should grow where we were planted. Build bridges where I have power and influence. I am a child of divorce so I would start there.
  • Your best bridges will be built where you have already built strong relationships not just a great argument.
  • I think the same sex marriage movement gained momentum because more and more people know more homosexuals.
  • There is an obligation for those that understand and have insight into disenfranchised groups to help build bridges between the parts.
  • Utah’s legislation between conservative parties (LDS Church, Government officials) and the LGBT World to balance LGBT rights with Religious Freedom was really ground breaking in the country and that was fostered by leaders on both sides of the issue who could build the bridges.
  • Don’t play the victims in the game but use your understanding to build the bridges.
  • Don’t make it either/or but instead try to find how both/and can work.
  • Try to take the place of other, before sharing your powerful positions with others. Show those you’re talking with that you can see the position from their frame of references before trying to argue what your position is.
  • Follow Stephen Covey’s admonition of Seeking First to Understand before Seeking To Be Understood.

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