Talking Over Turkey

Are you worried about Thanksgiving? I’m not talking about the mask and hand sanitizer part. You’ve planned for that. The limited guest list, you have arranged. The menu? That’s the easiest thing. But the conversation with relatives who disagree with your political views—what do you do about that?

It is understandable that Americans have trouble debating with the “other side” without hurting familial relationships. Our Aristotelian style of argument—think of the five-paragraph essay format you relied on in high school—seeks to win. We make a claim, provide evidence to back up that claim, and draw a conclusion, which we claim is factual, based on the argument we presented. That can be effective when we are certain we are in the right and don’t want to engage with another point of view. But at the dinner table, it can lead to indigestion.

The Rogerian form of argument has a different goal: compromise and a mutually beneficial solution. It promotes listening and trying to understand the other person’s point of view.

You can find out more about Rogerian argument  at the Purdue University Online Writing Laboratory https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/academic_writing/historical_perspectives_on_argumentation/rogerian_argument.html

Here is a sample structure to get you started making a Rogerian argument:

  1. Introduction (addressing the topic to be discussed and/or the problem to be solved)
  2. Opposing position (showing that you understand your opposition’s viewpoints/goals)
  3. Context for opposing position (showing that you understand the situations in which their viewpoint is valid)
  4. Your position (introducing/addressing your viewpoint as it differs from the reader’s)
  5. Context for your position (objectively showing the reader the context(s) under which your position is valid)
  6. Benefits (appeal to the opposition by showing how they would benefit by adopting elements of your position)

I hope this helps you and your loved ones find a middle ground in politics and other contentious topics, so you can focus on more important things, like pie!