'Everybody's Talkin' at Me': How to Talk About Hate in the News

Premier Health Now

Charlottesville, terrorism, demonstrations…When the headlines are saturated with hate, the topic naturally spills over into conversation among friends, family and co-workers. Such discussion can be helpful and educational. Yet because these topics are controversial, conversations can quickly become heated. For advice on keeping them productive, Premier Health Now asked Shauna Dilworth, MS/LPCC-S, Samaritan Behavioral Health, to weigh in. She offered these three helpful tips:

  1. Get off to a good start: Don’t start a discussion with your opinion. Instead, leave things open and keep an open mind. Say something like, “Have you been watching the news? There’s so much going on. Does it worry you?” Be prepared to listen and learn.
  2. Mind your manners: It’s healthy to disagree, and it’s what makes America what it is. A heated back-and-forth can even be OK, as long as everyone remains respectful. That means using respectful language, not cutting others off when they’re mid-thought, and treating others as you would like them to treat you. If you’re in the middle of a conversation and you feel that you can no longer be respectful — or feel as if you aren’t being respected — end the conversation and walk away.
  3. Step down from the soapbox: If you feel strongly about an issue, it’s natural to want others to share your passion. However, passion sometimes can lead to judgmental thinking. When people get puffed up and monopolize a conversation, it’s usually because they think others don’t understand, or they feel like they’re not being heard. If you’re tempted to step on a soapbox, consider this approach instead. Leave the judgment out of it by saying, “This topic has been bothering me. I’m guessing it’s bothering you too. Here’s how I feel about it…what are your thoughts?” You’re likely to learn that others have valid points that may or may not agree with yours.

In addition, Shauna notes that in a healthy conversation, everyone walks away feeling heard and respected. We should recognize that every opinion counts, she says. There’s no crystal-clear answer, except that hate and violence are not the answer. Everyone has different experiences in life, and being able to accept others’ views and opinions can keep a conversation from moving in the wrong direction.

Conversations aside, when the news is violent and full of hate, Shauna believes self-care is crucial. Know your limits and do what you need to do to keep yourself healthy. Provide yourself an outlet (meditate, pray, exercise, read, etc.) to process your emotions when the news is overwhelming or uncomfortable. If these emotions keep you from being engaged in life, please know there are services out there to help. As adults, we’re role models for our children. They’re watching how we handle things and often mimic our behavior. Try to model compassion, love, respect and acceptance.