College is meant to be a time in our lives for hashing out ideas and setting the world to rights. But that doesn’t always feel comfortable or constructive, especially when we are arguing about trigger warnings and free speech, cultural appropriation versus cultural appreciation, and other issues relating to race, gender, equality, and civil rights.
Healthy debate turns into stalemate when we make assumptions about people who hold different opinions. (She must be stupid to believe that. He obviously doesn’t care about anyone but himself. If she believes that, she must also believe this.)
These tips for using mindful awareness will help you listen, be heard, and communicate more effectively:
Notice the feeling of anger or stubbornness that comes up when someone disagrees with you. See it for what it is (a normal, temporary mood state) and what it isn’t (proof that you are right and others are wrong or “bad”).
Take a deep breath and try to listen with an open mind. Recognize that people who have had different experiences will have different perspectives. Be curious, instead of judgmental, when you hear an idea expressed that you don’t share.
Others will hear you more clearly if they do not feel attacked or criticized. Try starting your sentences with, “I hear what you are saying. This is how I tend to see it…” Acknowledge common ground: “I agree with you about [this part of it]”; “I love that we both care about this so much.”
Stay grounded in the present moment. If you feel your emotions starting to get away from you, turn your attention to your physical sensations. To calm yourself, notice what your hands are touching, feel your feet pressing into the floor, and feel your breath moving in and out of your body.
Be willing to take a break and return to the discussion later.