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Sunday, March 10, 2019

How To Talk About Cannabis To Someone Who Hates It ....

How To Talk About Cannabis To Someone Who Hates It If you're out to change hearts and minds, you're already....wrong. But there are a few ways to attempt a thoughtful conversation.

By David Wilson  •  Mar 5, 2019
Maybe it was at a party, a holiday dinner or a family event: someone mentioned cannabis’s groovy new status as either a point of conversation or a punchline, and someone else (probably Uncle Jim) sneered, scoffed or let free a surly tirade about the thinning moral fabric of the country.
How do you talk to them rationally about cannabis without entering a shouting match, or worse? And, crucially, do you talk to them at all?

Beware the backfire effect

“It always seems to evoke strong feelings,” says Zach Walsh, a clinical psychologist and director of the Therapeutic, Recreational, and Problematic Substance Use Lab in Kelowna, B.C. “For the people who’ve been raised to believe negative stereotypes about it, often they’ll just see it as ‘bad behaviour.’”
No stranger to difficult conversations about the plant, Walsh warns that out of the gate, it’s best to drop all illusions of changing your conversation partner's mind: there’s probably no one-two logic combo that’ll turn a wagging finger into a peace sign.
“If you’re trying to convince them, and they perceive that you’re trying to convince them, you could end up having the opposite effect,” he explains. “People end up believing their own inner voice more than others.”
He’s referring to what’s known as the “backfire effect”: presenting evidence in favour of one side of an argument will paradoxically cause the receiver to double down on the other side. The term came up a lot surrounding the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Find a few points of agreement

So, if you’re not trying to reshape your interlocutor into a potential smoke buddy, what are you doing? According to Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, professor of practical ethics at Duke University and partner investigator for the Oxford Centre for Neuroethics, you’re playing “teacher.”
“If somebody thinks it’s worth talking about in the first place, convince them that they’re going to get something out of it,” says Sinnott-Armstrong, author of Think Again: How to Reason and Argue. “Don’t give them the impression that you’re going to jump on them for what they say. Create a feeling that you’re working together.”
Sinnott-Armstrong says that if someone’s fundamentally opposed to cannabis use, try finding some points of agreement. For instance, very few people will disagree with the principle of “freedom of choice,” but when cannabis enters the frame, they’re likely to cite the potential increase of cannabis addiction.
He suggests acknowledging the potential for increased cannabis abuse. “When you do that, you’re recognizing that they’re not crazy.”

Understand their point of view

Now that the conversation’s grounded, you can get to work identifying any misconceptions that have coloured their perspective. Sinnott-Armstrong recommends paraphrasing as a means of both obtaining and showcasing an understanding of their ideals.
“When they say something contentious, repeat it back to them and show them you understand their views,” he says. “Tell them, ‘So what you’re saying is this,’ then get their confirmation.”
When it comes time to do some debunking, Walsh says you’ll want to tread carefully to avoid getting too self-righteous about the plant itself.
“I’ve found that doesn’t always help,” he says. “Arguing for tolerance, pointing out the ineffectiveness of criminalization, and arguing for compassion towards others to make their own choices about their health [are better].”
Walsh says that while cannabis as an object might not endear any sympathy, participants in the discussion may be more open to the human side of the equation.
If the speaker tells you it’s unhealthy, he advises asking them what their metrics for health are.
“People think it’s like tobacco in that way,” he says. Many conversations turn to how cannabis “makes you stupid” as well; since the facts surrounding cognitive performance in cannabis-using adults are what he calls “negligible,” it could be worthwhile to point out the deficiency and historical bias in those elusive figures. “There’ve been concerted efforts to stigmatize it,” Walsh says. “It wasn’t subtle.”

Know when to walk away

Sinnott-Armstrong cautions against overstaying your welcome, however: know when to back out if things get heated.
“If you’re talking to a stranger on the bus, you probably ought to just change the subject or walk away altogether,” he says. If it’s somebody you’re going to see repeatedly, try to leave the conversation with mutual respect.
“Say ‘that’s really interesting’, tell them you’re going to think about it and you’ll continue later. You haven’t given up… you’ve told them you want to be fair to their side, but maybe now’s not the time for this discussion.”

It's all about timing

Timing may be as important as the content of the dialogue. Walsh’s suggestion that ingrained misconceptions require more than statistics to address might mean your testimony alone, however astute, may be just one point of pro-pot contact on a lifelong timeline. You may disagree now, only for another chance encounter with cannabis culture to tilt your peer’s attitude a little further in its favour. However it happens, it’s worth a shot – and somebody has to do it.


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