Communicating with anti-gun peopleThere's more...read the whole thing...yes, there will be a test!
How can you communicate more effectively with an anti-gun person who is using unhealthy defense mechanisms? There are no quick and easy answers. But there are a few things you should keep in mind.
Anger and attacks do not work
Most gun owners, when confronted by an anti-gun person, become angry and hostile. This is understandable, because gun owners increasingly face ridicule, persecution and discrimination. (If you don't believe this, ask yourself if anyone would seriously introduce legislation to ban African- Americans, women, or Jews from post offices, schools, and churches. Even convicted felons aren't banned from such places - but peaceful armed citizens are!) But an angry response is counterproductive.
It's not helpful to attack the person you're trying to persuade. Anything that makes him feel more fearful or angry will only intensify his defenses. Your goal is to help the person feel safe, and then to provide experiences and information that will help him to make informed decisions.
You should never try to break down a defense mechanism by force. Remember that defense mechanisms protect people from feelings they cannot handle, and if you take that protection away, you can cause serious psychological harm. And because defense mechanisms operate unconsciously, it won't do any good to show an anti-gun person this article or to point out that he's using defense mechanisms. Your goal is gently and gradually to help the person to have a more realistic and rational view of the world. This cannot be done in one hour or one day.
As you reach out to people in this way, you need to deal with both the illogical thought processes involved and the emotional reactions that anti-gun people have to firearms. When dealing with illogical thought processes, you are attempting to use reason and logic to convince the anti-gun person that his perception of other people and his perception of firearms are seriously inaccurate. The goal is to help him to understand that armed citizens and firearms are not threats, and may even save his life.
Reversing Irrational thoughts
The Mirror Technique
One approach that can be helpful is simply to feed back what the anti-gun person is telling you, in a neutral, inquisitive way. So, when replying to my anonymous e-mail correspondent (above), I might respond, "So you fear if your neighbors had guns, they would use them to murder you. What makes you think that?" When you simply repeat what the person has said, and ask questions, you are not directly challenging his defenses. You are holding up a mirror to let him see his own views. If he has very strong defenses, he can continue to insist that his neighbors want to murder him. However, if his defenses are less rigid, he may start to question his position.
Another example might be, "Why do you think that your children's schoolteachers would shoot them?" You might follow this up with something like, "Why do you entrust your precious children to someone you believe would murder them?" Again, you are merely asking questions, and not directly attacking the person or his defenses.
Of course the anti-gun person might continue to insist that the teachers really would harm children, but prohibiting them from owning guns would prevent it. So you might ask how using a gun to murder innocent children is different from stabbing children with scissors, assaulting them with baseball bats, or poisoning the milk and cookies.
It's important to ask "open-ended" questions that require a response other than "yes" or "no". Such questions require the anti-gun person actually to think about what he is saying. This will help him to re-examine his beliefs. It may also encourage him to ask you questions about firearms use and ownership.
The "What Would You Do?" Technique
Once you have a dialogue going with an anti-gun person, you might want to insert him into a hypothetical scenario, although doing so is a greater threat to his defenses, and is therefore more risky. You might ask how he would deal with a difficult or annoying co-worker. He will likely respond that he would never resort to violence, but "other people" would, especially if they had guns. (Projection again.) You can then ask him who these "other people" are, why they would shoot a co-worker, and what the shooter would gain by doing so.
Don't try to "win" the argument. Don't try to embarrass the person you're trying to educate. Remember that no one likes to admit that his deeply held beliefs are wrong. No one likes to hear "I told you so!" Be patient and gentle. If you are arrogant, condescending, hurtful or rude to the anti-gun person, you will only convince him that gun owners are arrogant, hurtful people - who should not be trusted with guns!
Friday, September 12, 2008
The Psychology of Anti-gunners...
Interesting peak into the heads of the people on the other side of the Great Divide...and, indeed, it's a nasty rat's nest of seething repressed violence and unacknowledged victimhood. There's also an interesting take on communication with antigun people: