A guide to learning how to communicate with people who have diametrically opposed opinions from you, how to empathize with them, and how to (possibly) change their minds

In this increasingly polarized world, it’s getting more and more difficult to have honest conversations without tensions and voices rising — whether online or offline. Justin Lee explores a way not just to talk, but to understand each other in his latest book, Talking Across the Divide. Check out what First Look Club reviewers Florian, Jean, and Jowana have taken away from this enlightening read.

Echo chambers in a polarized world

Palo says: Social media is rife with “echo chambers”: little bubbles that we live in where we and our peers echo similar beliefs to one another. Echo chambers, Lee argues, have existed way before the advent of social media, but it has become easier to build one around us these days.

Jean says: We’re living in an increasingly polarized world. Everyone is divided on crucial issues, and our algorithm-induced virtual echo chambers are making things worse. […] It’s understandable, the temptation to sweep things under the rug and pretend that you understand your friend’s opposing views, or that your aunt doesn’t really believe in “fake news”. But the truth is, that’s even more of a reason to talk to them.

Jowana says: One distinct feature of the digital media age is the freedom to filter information. The natural instinct of a person is to listen to social media influencers and join online groups that share the same opinion and beliefs as his. The result is a relentless echoing of shared ideas and the filtering of opposing information. Echo chambers destroy meaningful conversation leading to a polarized society.

Strategic dialogue

Palo says: The book’s backbone is making the case for what Lee calls “strategic dialogue”—a dirty word for many who want actioninstead of talking things out. The author argues that actually taking the time to prepare for a dialogue—researching, listening, and keeping emotions in check—can actually do more for an advocacy or issue than blindly pushing for results.

Jean says: Perhaps it sounds passive and abstract, but strategic dialogue is meant to complement, not replace, action. […] You have to understand where someone is coming from, and what their inner motivations and core beliefs are. And to know that, you have to be willing to talk – and more importantly, to listen – to them.

Jowana says: The method recommends sharing stories, your personal story, to make people understand your perspective. Bibliophiles like us recognize the power of stories; so imagine the potential of sharing personal stories in real life. […] Strategic dialogue hopes to provide a pathway to understand people different from us and maybe even heal impaired friendships.

A moment of reflection

Palo says: Lee’s latest book is an exercise in self-awareness. It offers plenty of opportunities to reflect on your own interactions with your personal and professional circles. […] It’s best to put the book down every other section to actually ask yourself whether you’re in the habit of doing the examples he lays out.

Jean says: What’s interesting about this book is how it invites you to reflect on your personal beliefs and behaviors as well. Perhaps sometimes you are part of the problem. It can be a hard pill to swallow, but more often than not, both sides are at fault.

Jowana says: The most fascinating detail of strategic dialogue is that it begins with ‘knowing the enemy’ and ends with ‘knowing thyself’. […] You cannot engage in a dialogue if you have been, to paraphrase Socrates, living an unexamined life. It is going to be pretty embarrassing when you realize the reason you fail at communication is that you, like your enemy, is also guilty of ego protection and intolerance.


Talking Across the Divide by Justin Lee will be available soon at Fully Booked stores. To reserve a copy in advance, email us at greatreads@fullybookedonline.com.

Palo Garcia is a writer by trade and a book hoarder at heart. She hopes to one day conquer the behemoth that is her to-be-read pile. Read her full review here.

Jean has, at different points in her life, worked in government, interviewed international celebrities, and been the social media manager for several brands. Read her full review here.

Jowana has since harnessed her powers working as a social media manager for almost a decade. Read her full review here.

[Thoughts and views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Fully Booked. Then again, we love our authors anyway.]

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