Most news stories related to politics and social issues are presented in a protagonist/antagonist format.

The reporter first presents the views of a group of people (the “protagonists”) affected by an issue, and then presents a group with an opposing point of view (the “antagonists”) who respond.

To the audience, this automatically places the responding side in a defensive posture.  By going second, they’re painted as the “bad guys”, forced to rebut or deny the allegations raised by the first group.  A failure to engage at all (“we reached out to X but they had no comment”) is equally bad; the audience interprets the lack of response as a dodge, and equates it with an admission of guilt.

This is where many accusations of “media bias” are rooted.  Whether or not the reporter is actually biased is a valid question, but that’s a separate discussion.  The point here is that an impartial reporter may appear biased simply because of the decision to present one side of a story first.

The same concept applies to dialogue with those on the opposite side of an issue. You place yourself in the “protagonist” role, with the other side forced to rebut you. But if your goal in raising the issue is to work toward a constructive solution, this is not an effective approach. All you’ll do is antagonize them, and nothing will get solved for either side.

Before you engage with people whose views differ from yours, reverse your perspective. Try to see yourself and your beliefs through their eyes and their experience. Do this especially when you feel certain you’re right and they’re wrong.

Imagining yourself as the “bad guy” will change the way you frame your argument. You won’t be able to apply the same language, context and methodology as an “antagonist” that you use as a “protagonist”.

To make a point that both sticks and helps advance the dialogue, make sure that your story works from many angles. Reverse perspective will help you.