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Communication Styles

A young couple sitting on a hilltop watches the sunrise. Photo: Unsplash

Who am I talking to?

Your next hard conversation will go better if you prepare. It helps to know who you're talking to and how they will react. Here are four archetypes that Braver Angels uses in their Families and Politics workshop.

The Gladiator

The Gladiator wants to convince you they're right. Having a good conversation with a Gladiator is all about timing, so make sure you're in the right frame of mind. Be prepared to listen and ask follow-up questions. It helps to lead with areas of agreement, too. Settle for brief — but constructive — exchanges the first few times you talk, with the hope of longer conversations in the future.

The Defender

The Defender will escalate arguments by misrepresenting your positions. Disarm them by using “I” statements, offer context for your reasoning and use personal stories to make your point. It helps to acknowledge their perspective, too. If the defender continues to criticize you, move on to another topic.

The Peacekeeper

A Peacekeeper will try to stop political conversations in an effort to make people feel comfortable. You can keep them engaged by calmly reassuring them that it's possible to have a respectful conversation. And if the timing isn't right, that's ok. Pick things up again at a later date.

The Sniper

The Sniper will make snarky remarks about your politics or worldview, often in front of others. If experience tells you that they are looking for a fight, the basic strategy is to not take the bait.

If you decide to talk with the Sniper, do so privately when there is less risk of defensiveness and side-taking.

What about you?

Here's an example of how to communicate effectively.

Learn how to challenge your own stereotypes about ‘the other side.’

Explore Depolarizing Within

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