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Media Mastery: Respecting Opinions

Studies show that media literacy classes bring positive results. A 2012 meta-analysis of media literacy interventions in the Journal of Communications said,

“Media literacy interventions has positive effects on outcomes including media knowledge, criticism, perceived realism, influence, behavioural beliefs, attitudes, self-efficacy, and behaviour.”

It has other benefits too. Media literacy

  • Inspires reading
  • Gets children interested and invested in current events and different sides of an issue 
  • Gives them background information and inspiration for hobbies and projects

It also gives children opportunities to share their own views and opinions, listen to each other respectfully and know how to speak professionally.

But this doesn’t come naturally!

Sharing opinions on controversial issues can be a challenge for children so what can we do to help?

We can begin by asking some questions around respect. For example,

  • What does respect look like?
  • What does respect feel like?
  • What does respect sound like?
  • Why do I need to be respectful of others?
  • What does it mean to respect each other perceptions about their ideas?
  • What are the benefits of treating others with respect?
  • What is self-respect?
  • Is it ever okay to disrespect others?
  • How can we show respect to people that are different from us?

How do we connect in meaningful ways with people who are different from us?

The last question here is crucial in a classroom because children need to appreciate and respect difference and expand their perspectives.

Connecting with each other in meaningful ways is important even when we have a difference of opinion. One practical way to make respectful interactions more high profile is to ask children to create their own rules of respect.

The nuts and bolts of disagreement

For people to communicate effectively mutual trust and respect has to be established. 

Art Silverblatt (2014) in his book Media Literacy says that 

“Communication is an active, dynamic experience that demands your fullest attention and energy.”

Explain to children that when they take part in a conversation then there is a lot to do because they have to receive the message, select relevant information, form appropriate responses and respond to the message.    

Explain that disagreements are an inevitable part of daily life but there’s definitely a wrong way and a right way to present your own arguments. The choice is between a polite debate or a no-holds-barred verbal boxing match and the latter is to be avoided! 

Discuss with children that when they disagree with someone, it can sometimes be a real challenge to express their point of view without offending that person. However, they also need to know that it is important to express an honest opinion themselves. Disagreeing with someone requires a great deal of courage.

It is important that children have a safe space to test drive their ideas and learn to see disagreement as an opportunity to learn.

Explain that it’s not usually a good idea to just tell someone they are wrong because this can sound confrontational and could lead to a more heated argument.

Share with children some polite, diplomatic and professional phrases that are a more effective way to reply. For example,  

  1. “I understand where you’re coming from, but…”
  2. “I see what you’re saying but…”
  3. “That’s a valid point, but…”
  4. “I’m sorry but I disagree with you about this.”
  5. “I’m not sure I agree with you about this.”
  6. “I don’t think I have the same opinion as you.”
  7. “I see what you’re saying but I think…”
  8. “I respect your point but from my perspective…”
  9. “I take your point but that isn’t the way I see it because…”
  10. “Although I get where you’re coming from, I don’t think that point is something I could support because…”
  11. “That is a fair point, but I have to say I disagree…”
  12. “While I see your point, that isn’t quite what I stand for….”
  13. “There may be some truth to what you’re saying but don’t you think that…”
  14. “I’m sorry but I have to disagree with you on…”
  15. “I’m not sure I agree with you one of your points…” 
  16. “I think we are moving in different directions on this point but from my perspective…”
  17. “I’m afraid I disagree so let me take this opportunity to explain…”
  18. “I’m sorry but I don’t agree so perhaps I could explain why…”
  19. “With respect, I don’t see it that way because…”
  20. “Hmm, I wonder if it’s true that….”
  21. “I think the exact opposite and with respect I’d like to elaborate…”
  22. “I beg to differ because…”
  23. “I’d be inclined to disagree with you…”
  24. “I cannot share the same view although I recognise you have made a good point…”
  25. “Hmm, I’m not sure whether everyone would agree because…”
  26. “I can see why that might be a good argument to make, I don’t think fully agree with the point you make because…”

Tell children they could add into their own opinion the views of others to support what they are saying. Adding a reason why another idea may be correct is a good tactic and it is always a good idea to provide an alternative, suggestion or solution as this softens the disagreement.

For example, they could say

“My suggestion would be to…”

“An alternative solution might be…”

“I would recommend that we…”

“Perhaps it would be a good idea instead to….”

“How about we…”

“What do you think about ______ instead?”

“If you ask me, I think we should…”

“Although I do like your solution, the idea might be even more effective with a few additions…”

Explain that there is no room for getting personal with someone when there is a disagreement and should be avoided at all costs. Criticising someone’s appearance is something that does happen in an argument but children must be clear that this is completely unprofessional and not acceptable. 

Someone else’s opinion might make children feel mad but remind them that to use sarcasm or make derogatory comments will only fuel a fire.

When there is no agreement

Knowing when to pause, stop or move on is important.

Jonathan Herring, professor of law at the University of Oxford and the author of ‘How to Argue: Powerful, Persuasively, Politely’, says that an effective way to exit a disagreement is to say “You have certainly given me a lot to think about,” or “Let’s talk about this another time.”

Sometimes you can trade views backwards and forwards with someone like an endless rally in a game of tennis but explain that in these cases it is probably best to draw a line and agree to disagree.

When someone says, “Let’s agree to disagree,” then this is a polite way of bowing out of an exchange gracefully without losing any ground. It is an acknowledgment that you will never agree with the other person on that particular topic and that you can move on to discussing other issues instead.

The art of disagreeing with someone must always revolve around respect so that no one is belittled or ridiculed.

Balance is important in a conversation or argument and no one should dominate but children should commit to their point of view and any subsequent fallout and allowing a fair exchange. This is a crucial component for active and responsible citizenship in a democracy.

Rather than shy away from a heated debate about a controversial news issue, encourage argument but within the framework of respect and watch your children come alive and engage with each other on truly professional terms. 

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