Four Tips For Having Controversial Conversations

A Red Thread Broken follower recently asked me for help relaying her opinion in an effective way during ongoing dialogue on a particular topic. I think that this is an extremely important topic in the current polarized political times, where it may be necessary at times to engage in conversations that speak to values and core beliefs that differ from others’. And it is crucial to be able to do this in a way that promotes critical thinking.  More specifically to the audience of this blog, conversations I see between adoptees and adoptive parents in online discussion groups can quickly become tense and inflammatory.

Here are some thoughts about ways to have more productive discussions online and in person:

  1. It’s helpful when responding to state your point of view clearly and without judgement toward anyone else’s point of view. Your message will probably be received better if you couch your statements in words that don’t sound like your view is more thoughtful, valued, or superior.
  2. I think it’s good to give some indication that you are actually hearing the other person’s perspective, not just writing (or speaking) to reiterate your point, and acknowledge validity where you see it. Something along the lines of, “You raised an interesting point when you said, [statement], and I’ll think more on that,” or “I don’t know if I agree, but I hadn’t thought of it [blank] way before,” can go a long way.
  3. If someone isn’t understanding you, it may be helpful to say, “In my experience, [blank] method has worked,” or “As I see it,” but when I write I make sure to note that I am never speaking on behalf of ALL Asians or ALL adoptees or ALL Chinese American women, because there are so many diverse experiences, and the only one we are truly an expert on is our own.
  4. If you’ve stated your opinion, told how you formed that opinion, or given an example of when it was true for you, and it is apparent that the other person will not agree with you, I think the best thing to do is to end the conversation graciously, knowing that repeating the same few points in slightly different (or the same) words will probably not alter anything.


Best of luck to you all in engaging in these difficult conversations,


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