Don’t Dialogue Like Hamilton OR Aaron Burr

Hamilton

The character of Aaron Burr in Hamilton: An American Musical stands in stark contrast to the title character. Alexander Hamilton is brash, aggressive, tactless, and always reaches for what he wants, while Aaron Burr is polite, careful, and hesitant. When he initially meets Hamilton, Burr encourages him to:

Talk less, smile more, don’t let them know what you’re against or what you’re for.

Sadly, this line reminds me all too well of some well-meaning pro-life people.

Think of it in terms of a dialogue spectrum. On one side of the spectrum, pro-life people dialogue far too aggressively and tactlessly, and, because of that, they don’t usually persuade pro-choice people. Let’s call this “The Hamilton Approach.”

Many agreeable pro-life people wind up on the other end of the spectrum. They say little of consequence in their conversations, they don’t challenge people, and they just focus on being really friendly. Let’s call this “The Aaron Burr Approach.”

The problem is that the people who take the Aaron Burr Approach don’t accomplish much either. Sure, they’re less irritating than people who take the Hamilton Approach, but they don’t persuade anyone of anything because they’re too meek and cautious.

PODCAST: Dialogue Tip: Tell Them That They Can’t Offend You

Download Audio MP3 | 00:04:50

Millennials are terrified of offending people.

They are surrounded by a world of trigger warnings and microaggressions. They worry that they’ll be shouted down if they say something that could be perceived as racist, sexist, homophobic, or somehow bigoted. They also really don’t want to be any of those things. Fair or not, many have gotten an impression of pro-life activists that we are ready to yell at them or hit them with a Bible if they set us off.

Put all of those things together, and you have a recipe for dialogue roadblocks. I hate dialogue roadblocks. This post is about how to improve your dialogues with people who are worried about offending you.

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Building Rapport with a Benevolent Dictator

Employ this dialogue tactic to build rapport with a pro-choice person and increase the likelihood that your conversation about abortion will be successful.

Many conversations about abortion succeed or fail because of your rapport, or lack thereof, with the pro-choice person. Even a perfectly articulated pro-life argument will just glance off of a combative pro-choice mind, so people who are skilled at dialogue use wisdom to build rapport and make the tone of the conversation friendly.

This post is about something that I regularly do to build rapport. It may sound implausible that something so simple works so unbelievably well, but I’ve done this dozens of times, and it usually makes a huge difference in my conversations.

Building Rapport with a Benevolent Dictator

Instead of simply asking, “Do you think this or that should be legal?” I’ll say something like:

Let’s transport ourselves to an alternate dimension. We no longer live in the United States of America, we now live in the Benevolent Dictatorship of Joe [insert their first name here]. Joe makes all the rules. Doesn’t that sound nice?

PODCAST: Sometimes It’s Not about the Argument

Download Audio MP3 | 00:11:33

In my early pro-life apologetics days I tended to think that changing someone’s mind about abortion was primarily about making good arguments, being clear, being fast on your feet, and maybe having a little bit of relational skill. The more that I actually have dialogue with other people, the more I realize that it’s the opposite. Changing someone’s mind about abortion involves primarily relational work with a little argument thrown in there.

This piece came out of my processing this reality and deciding to expand on the idea.

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