How to Gain Fewer Enemies and More Friends

When I first met my boyfriend two years ago, he was a mainstream Republican: he loved Bush, listened to Limbaugh, and watched Hannity. We avoided the topic of politics because he thought Ron Paul was an idiot, while I thought the same of Sarah Palin.

He stopped by our 2010 YAL Tax Day Tea Party at SUNY Buffalo, where someone brought up the subject of Palin. Once a YAL member started calling her names, I could feel the atmosphere bubbling over with awkward tension. My boyfriend became defensive when a couple of my friends got on the offense, saying, “So you agree with thousands of innocent Iraqis being murdered?” and other blanket allegations. He got offended at the supposed accusation of American soldiers committing murder, and stormed off.

In the following months, I avoided bringing up the uncomfortable subject of politics between him and me. After enough time passed, I simply provided him with some resources. A week ago, he sent me the following message:

I’ve learned a lot from all of your libertarian stuff. I’m pretty much in lockstep with Ron Paul on domestic topics like ending the Fed and ending FIAT money. I see the cause of Islamic terrorism completely differently than you and he do, but I really do enjoy listening to him and reading Austrian economics. The only thing I wish is that some of his supporters would take debating lessons from him. I went on to find out about Rick Perry (because I never liked him) and everyone on there just calls anyone they disagree with stupid or neocon or warmonger. Ron Paul in debates and interviews is always very calm in his responses, but still manages to be very forceful, clear, and compelling. Whenever I talk to my dad about politics I try to emulate that style now.

A far cry from the typical Fox News indoctrinee, no?

It was a pleasant surprise to receive this message, and made me realize the irony of persuasion:  You convince people more when you argue less. When one has a certain opinion, an abrasive confrontation causes the person to be more stubborn and cling on to their beliefs even tighter. People like to feel that they reached a conclusion using their own intelligence and logic.

We aren’t helping our message of peace by calling others neocons, warmongers, or traitors, either — not in person or online. Mainstream Republican pundits and bloggers cite the hate mail they get from libertarians as evidence for the philosophy’s “nuttiness.” The content of the hate mail is embarrassing, paralleling to foaming-at-the-mouth liberal lunacy (“You are an EVIL, RACIST, HOMOPHOBIC REDNECK WHO HATES THE POOR!!!” turned into “You are an EVIL, NWO-SUPPORTING, ZIONIST BILDERBERG WARMONGER”).

“They do it too” arguments are fallacious, as we want to be known as better than “them,” rather than stoop to “their” level. Thanks to the fans being labeled as “nuts,” guilt by association hurts the image of libertarianism. Instead of giving status-quo newscasters ammunition and their millions of listeners easy targets to attack when they want to disagree with our message, why don’t we try something new? A polite, brief, and persuasive delivery of the message of liberty resonates with those people who are open-minded enough to listen long enough because it doesn’t offend them from the get-go.

By simply getting my boyfriend to listen, many of the views of a former Bush supporter were evolved. No matter how ridiculous someone else’s opinion may seem to you, no matter how offended you may feel about their love of big government, letting it show will hurt us. We should recognize that humans have a tendency to seek freedom; thus, every supposed opponent is a potential ally. After all, us vs. them thinking – whether it be conservatives vs. liberals or “true conservatives” vs. neocons – is collectivist thinking. When we open our own minds, the individuals to whom we are speaking let go of the stubbornness of long-held opinion, become open-minded, and want to learn.

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