Conversing with someone who’s anti-Cannabis (Or anyone for that matter)

“Smoking weed makes you lazy and stupid!”

“There’s nothing beneficial about getting high.”

“It’s against the law!”

One component of conversation I often struggle with is dealing with unreasonable, often unnecessarily negative ways of thinking. I recently asked my good friend Robin, one of the most patient and understanding people I know, how she finds the ability to converse with someone given extreme adversity. Her advice, not to my surprise, was incredibly insightful. She said I need to start by recognizing that what I may see as irrational or unnecessarily negative, is still at this juncture only my interpretation. Not only that, but that whatever I may see or think, it is still part of who that person is and should still be acknowledged on this basis.

One great example of this is speaking with someone who still believes Cannabis is a detrimental problem to be dealt with— often times with no real reasoning behind it.

For those who understand the science behind Cannabis’ medical applications; the industrial applications of hemp; or have an anecdotal understanding through your own experience:

How can discourse occur in the presence of what can be a daunting, fundamental lack of knowledge about this topic?

Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People immediately comes to mind. Often times the trap that I and many fall into is one of feeling so passionately about this or any topic that I forget to acknowledge the validity of another person’s feelings and opinions. I often find myself so enveloped by my own beliefs that I alienate people by thrusting too many facts, and many times pointed fingers, toward them— effectively crushing any potential for a mutually beneficial discussion.

In having the discussion about Cannabis with someone who believes it to be detrimental, we first need to understand why this person feels this way.

Open the vent

Steven Covey once wrote:

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

Say what you will about self-help books, this is one of the most basic concepts in having a beneficial discussion. When a person feels that they are being acknowledged, and not attacked, in a discussion they are much more likely to continue instead of putting up a defense.

One of the main reasons people revert to such a negative way of thinking, especially while ignoring new information, is they may just want to air their grievances. Whether its coming from a substantial place or not, sometimes people just need to vent.

Allow this to be part of the conversation. More often than not, someone will begin to realize that this has overwhelmed the whole encounter and will stop. I find myself getting exhausted when I realize I may be just complaining about something instead of making the choice to act.

The venting process also allows room for someone to see the potential flaws in what they’re arguing. I can’t begin to count how many times just saying something out loud has allowed me to see a flaw in what I thought I wanted to believe. There’s no better cure for time overspent in your head than getting out of it for a while. Simple vocalization of one’s thoughts can often lead to a deeper understanding of the real issue at hand.

Seek to understand even further

Now that the air has been cleared, dive further into understanding where the other person is coming from. Showing genuine interest is the most effective way to engage with someone. It lays the framework for allowing a two-way discussion as apposed to a one-way directive.

Carnegie was referencing the teachings of William James, an American philosopher and psychologist, when he wrote of sincerely making someone feel that they matter. James believed that the deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.

If you enjoy being treated with respect; doesn’t it make sense that other people would enjoy the same?

“What have you experienced that might help me understand why Cannabis is so undesirable?”

Not only does a question like this further your understanding of where they’re coming from, but it fosters a sense of genuine interest from the other person. I must say that I personally feel amazing when someone respects my opinion. But when I feel that someone is curious enough to learn even more from me, I turn into an overanxious child waiting to burst with information.

Speak and ask questions in terms of the other person’s interests

Going right back now to the idea of clearly articulating that you value the other person. How difficult is it for us to pay attention to something we care nothing about? Productive discussions always come about because of a shared interest in a subject. By framing the discussion of Cannabis in a way that the other person can relate to; we can facilitate a much more receptive conversation.

If you know what they like, use that. If you don’t, try to find out.

Cannabis has the capacity to touch many facets of our lives, and therefore has limitless potential as a point of discussion.

Do they enjoy history? The brief history of the stigmatization of Cannabis compared to its use prior is fascinating.

What about the idea of reduced dependence on non-renewable or foreign energy? Hemp might be right up their alley.

Or maybe battling dependence on pharmaceutical products? The lists of side effects of some of these rivaling the length of the list of Cannabis’ benefits is incredibly interesting.

When it comes to this topic, an increasing number of people are seeing that the stigmas surrounding this plant were based completely on lies which placated to irrationally based fears. People are waking to see that if not for individuals like Harry Anslinger and campaigns like “Just say no” there would be nothing but a clear history of human use and documentation of Cannabis across cultures. Not to mention the near exhausting list of known and potential benefits.

Knowing the facts can certainly be motivating in wanting to educate those around you. However, it certainly doesn’t guarantee the ability to sway someone’s opinion. Only the individual can do that. Through productive discussion though, one that cultivates curiosity from the bedding of respect, a person can discover the tools to enhance their understanding because they now feel incentivized to do so.

This is something I continue to struggle with every day, especially considering that nearly each day brings a new discovery of a benefit or application of this plant. It’s pretty difficult to have a discussion when the agreed upon language isn’t even determined. And this is often what it can feel like to discuss Cannabis with someone who doesn’t believe it to be beneficial.

But if we can avoid the pitfall of attacking someone in a discussion, and instead focus on building them up by acknowledging that their opinion not only deserves to be heard, but that we are the ones who want to hear it; we can almost always enjoy a more productive interaction.

And hopefully, we can learn something for ourselves too.

Patrick Riddle is the author of this blog as well as the co-founder of Third day co-op, a non profit organization that strives to get Cannabis Medicine to those who need it most, as well as to educate the public on the benefits of this incredible plant.

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