For a solid seven years, I believed that, one night each year, a jolly old elf circumnavigated the globe in a magical flying sleigh towed by reindeer. Until the day my Aunt decided I was “too old for that sh*t” and my world came crashing down. The depth of lies they’d spun about Good Old Saint Nick was incredible. If I couldn’t trust my Mum and Dad, who could I trust?
Since then, I’ve approached any information ‘The Authorities’ provide with a healthy amount of scepticism, relying on applying the trusty Lense of Science.
Thanks to my Grade 9 Science teacher, I learned some basic, yet useful, skills of understanding how to investigate theories, and I love getting deep into medical journal articles and geeky podcasts.
The real research, however, I will always leave to those folk who’ve spent years at University specializing in their fields, dedicating their lives to the pursuit of facts. You know – the experts. I think this is wise, given that all I managed to specialize in at Uni was how to start and not finish three separate degrees, how to mix a mean Midori Illusion shaker, and how to perfectly apply iridescent shimmer glitter eyes in the shortest time possible.
When “all this stuff” (aka COVID-19) hit, I jokingly discussed with my hubby about how some crazy people actually believed that it was all a hoax to distract from the 5G towers and the Illuminati’s plan to have Bill Gates inject microchips into our bloodstream.
“How could they be so thick? I bet they think the moon landing was fake as well!” I scoffed.
I was met by silence from my husband. Crickets.
“Right? I mean, of course the moon landing happened, right babe? Babe?”
Here I was getting into online arguments with my “conspiracy theorist” mates, meanwhile the man I love; the man I want to spend the rest of my life with; the man I thought I knew better than anyone else in the world disagreed with me on a topic I believe in so vehemently.
He believes the moon landing was a hoax.
What. The. Actual??
I yelled. I cried. I made fun of him. I rolled out every single fact and argument I knew and he just shrugged his shoulders and proclaimed, “It’s okay for us to have differing views on some things, you know. It’s not the end of the world”.
After I picked my jaw up off the floor and threw my high school debating trophies in the bin, I sat down and thought about ways I could have better discussions with People With Differing Views. Here’s a few tips I came up with.
1. RESIST THE URGE TO NAME CALL OR TAKE THE PISS
(Okay, I’m obviously gonna need to focus hard to achieve this one.) But I’ve learned that if you are actually hoping to plant some seeds of doubt in their minds around your argument, making fun is not the way.
People don’t like to be wrong or to be made to feel wrong. Or stupid. Or to be called names.
Okay, point taken.
2. APPROACH THE TRICKY TOPIC WITH EMPATHY.
Quite often people are attracted to out-there theories because they feel vulnerable or powerless and are seeking some kind of plausible explanation for life’s complex situations.
3. FIND COMMON GROUND
Search for some kernel of truth, or a common ground within the whacky theory, and connect with your friend over that one point.
4. AVOID THE TOPIC ALTOGETHER Search cute kitten or puppy videos together and get on with the parts of your lives where you can relate.
At the end of the day, you need to ask yourself if your difference in views on that topic are really a deal-breaker or not. Is it worth jeopardising a friendship or relationship over?
In the meantime, I’ll be over here pondering whether the Great Moon Landing Debate of 2020 can be classed as irreconcilable differences in a court of law.