At the weekend, several members of the #Howfar team spent their Saturday at a workshop co-run by Hope Not Hate Wales and Swansea City of Sanctuary called ‘Challenging people with prejudiced views’.
Hope Not Hate Wales is an organisation which:
Seeks to challenge and defeat the politics of hate and extremism within local communities, building resilience against the politics of hate and fear, at a national and grassroots level.
And Swansea City of Sanctuary is:
A national movement committed to building a culture of hospitality and welcome, especially for refugees seeking sanctuary from war and persecution.
The aim of the workshop was to provide us with the techniques and abilities to be able to have a calm and respectful conversation with an individual who holds prejudiced views should we find ourselves in that situation. Although prejudiced views can cover a wide variety of traits and characteristics, the workshop primarily focused on immigration in their examples. This was particularly relevant for us given that immigrants are often at the receiving end of far-right extremism and hate crimes. Therefore, we are going to share some of these examples with you in the hope that should you also find yourself in the presence of someone with prejudiced views, you can handle the conversation in a safe manner.
Let us begin by busting a few immigration myths…
- Did you know that an individual who is a refugee is not the same as an individual who is an asylum seeker?
- A refugee is an individual who has proved that they would face persecution in their homeland, has completed a successful asylum application, and has been officially accepted into the country by the authorities, usually for an initial period of 5 years.
- An asylum seeker is an individual who had to flee from their homeland, has arrived in another country, has made themselves known to the authorities and is exercising their legal right to apply for sanctuary according to the 1951 Geneva Convention.
- Did you know that not everyone who applies for asylum receives refugee status?
- Many who are forced to leave their country are often unable to bring the necessary evidence to claim sanctuary. A result of this can include: detention, forced removal, destitution and homelessness.
- Did you know that asylum seekers are not allowed to work?
- During the asylum process, asylum seekers receive around £35 a week (this is half the amount of benefits received by British citizens), and then once the asylum seeker is given refugee status they are allowed to work.
- Did you know that there is no such thing as an “illegal” asylum seeker nor can anyone seek asylum in the UK without being in the UK?
- Did you know the asylum process can take years to process with no right to work?
- As a result of this, depression is very common among asylum seekers.
- Lastly, did you know that 86 percent of asylum seekers are located in developing countries and 51 percent of refugees are children?
Unfortunately, immigrants are not always accurately portrayed by the media. Hopefully the above information will have provided you with some new knowledge around immigration. It is always a good idea to do your own research when it comes to topics such as immigration, for example, reading government publications, or third sector websites such as Hope Not Hate Wales.
Who are you speaking to?
The next thing that we learned at the workshop was to know to whom you are speaking. Have you ever stopped to think about what position the person you are speaking to holds on the spectrum of support and opposition of the cause (e.g., immigration)? Are they a passive opponent, an active opponent or a key individual in the organisation of the opposition? Having a discussion with a key individual in the organisation of the opposition (e.g. an individual who runs an anti-immigration campaign) is unlikely to end well in comparison to a discussion with someone who is a passive opponent of the opposition (e.g., an individual who may express anti-immigration views but does not actively act on these views). It is unlikely that you will be able to change the perspective of such an active member of the opposition and it is important that you think about the possibility of the conversation escalating. Take a minute to judge the situation and put your safety ahead of an engaging with potentially dangerous members of the opposition.
Rules to remember
It is important to remember the difference between having an argument and having a discussion.
Rule #1 – Do not get angry
Rule #2 – Do not construct straw men (this is when you give the impression that you are disproving your opponents argument but you are actually disproving an argument that they never advanced in the first place e.g., ‘ We can’t stop all immigration’)
Rule #3 – Do not allow your opponent to appear more nuanced that you are
Rule #4 – Do not use rehearsed, quick fired, one line facts (psychologists have found that humans have a tendency to only acknowledge and recall information that confirms our world views and prejudices, and ignore information that does not – this is called confirmation bias)
So what should you do?
We learned two techniques at the weekend: empathetic listening and Socratic questioning.
Empathetic listening is the ability to listen and understand your opponent before you are understood. The ability to listen creates a space for constructive and respectful conversation, reduces tension, builds trust, and also you might just learn something! While the other person is expressing their view, it is helpful to remember ’70/30′. This is when you do 70 percent listening and 30 percent asking questions. This is when you can use Socratic questioning techniques which are: asking for clarification (why do you say that?), probe assumptions (e.g., why do you assume this?), probe evidence (e.g., what would be an example of that), alternative perspectives (e.g., what is another way of looking at this?), and challenging implications or consequences (e.g., what do you think would result from this?). Hope Not Hate Wales have found that sometimes (but we must emphasize not always), this method not only results in the opponent showing the same respect when it is your turn to express your views, but often forces the opponent to think objectively about their own views and change their way of thinking.
We would like to thank Hope Not Hate Wales and Swansea City of Sanctuary for their workshop and would actively encourage you to participate in future workshops.