In today’s increasingly polarized world, it’s tempting to avoid the “other side.” After all, only having affirming conversations with people who completely agree with you is far easier than having your beliefs challenged.

But if we don’t reach out to people who think differently, how will they learn about the importance of freedom? Unless we’re willing to develop real relationships with people from different backgrounds and beliefs, we’ll never be able to change hearts and minds.

In “Meeting People Where They Are,” one of our Insight to Action programs, trainers talk about how to be an effective messenger of freedom. Here are four tips from the training:

Be Brave

To reach those people with differing world views, you must be brave. Are you stepping outside your comfort zone, or are you talking to the same people over and over again, validating each other’s thoughts?

You can’t change anyone’s mind if you only interact with groups of people that already agree with you. It may be uncomfortable, but it’s important to be brave enough to reach people that may have never heard your ideas before.

Be an Active Listener

Two monologues do not make a dialogue. Are you really listening to what the other person is saying to you, or planning what you will say next instead?

There’s a big difference between talking “at” someone and talking “with” them. If you want to be able to persuade someone, you will have to listen to what is important to them.

Does the person you’re speaking with have children? School choice is an easy topic to explain to parents if you acknowledge they want the best for their kids, and then emphasize how this policy gives families control over their child’s education.

Be Proactive

Each person’s opinions are shaped by their cultural and family background, their education, and their life experiences. Instead of launching into a heated debate anytime someone states an opinion that’s different than yours, take the time to find out why they believe what they do.

Knowing where that person is coming from will help you build common ground with them. Then you can use that common ground to share your views.

Be Patient

Building a grassroots movement is about more than knocking on doors and passing out fliers. Connecting with people outside of your circle is a long-term commitment that will require diligence and patience.

It’s hard work to build relationships with, educate and motivate people. You don’t need to be best friends to build a connection with people, but be genuine enough to make the other person feel like they can trust you. If they trust what you say, then they are more likely to agree with you.

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