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Monday, August 15, 2011

Conversation vs. Conversion

Have you ever had someone try to tell you that your opinion is wrong? It's often an amusing experience to have your subjective feelings scrutinized and evaluated as if you might change them base upon superior logic. My wife doesn't like coffee, she never has, but we live in the Pacific Northwest where coffee is part religion, part art. Whenever anyone finds out that she doesn't like coffee they try to convert her. Invariably someone'll say: "Buy you just need to try my coffee." As if Andrea has been trying the wrong coffee all this time and all it would take is a switch in brand.

There's a stark difference between being in a conversation and having someone try to convert you. A conversation gives you the opportunity to share your opinion without feeling judged for it, but a conversion attempt calls into question everything you've ever believed. It's not comfortable to be in the conversion seat, especially when there are a lot of people trying to convert you. Something as innocuous as coffee preference is mildly annoying for my wife. But, when the subject is something core to who you are, like your world-view, then the experience is quite a bit more uncomfortable.

Subjecting people to a conversion experience leaves no room for relationship or conversation. Trying to convert someone assumes that you are 100% right and they are 100% wrong. There are times when that might be true - you might try to convert someone to stop poking themselves in the eye with a sharp stick because you are completely confident that it's bad for them. That's a good candidate for conversion. But worldviews are a bit trickier to tackle. Rather than telling people that they're absolutely wrong, perhaps we could spend some time in conversation listening to why they think they're right.

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