|We have been going regularly to the local train station for five years wearing t-shirts bearing questions: one always reads, "What's Your Opinion?" and the other might be, "Should We Have Gone to War?" or some other provocative question.
Such questions are a non-threatening invitation to people who are ready to approach us and share their views on policy issues and how they came to hold them. As we listen with interest and respect, people vent feelings and, then, often become more free to think anew.
People appreciate being listened to without interruption. If their opinion is listened to with respect, then their "suspicion" of talking to someone who may have a differing viewpoint quickly evaporates.
We have found this approach valid for people from across the political spectrum. For example, some people use the opportunity to imagine next steps or shed hopelessness. Even people angered by our very presence--and the implication that the policy of the government merits debate-- seem relieved to have the chance to express how they came to be in that place. The key is that we avoid the classic confrontation in which one person feels compelled to push back against perceived opposition. Instead, we make room for people to explore what actually makes sense to them with our support.