Tactics and Tools

How to Diffuse the Accusation of Intolerance

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Author Amy K. Hall Published on 10/14/2015

What if someone who’s hostile to Christianity asks for your opinion on a controversial topic? Greg referenced this approach on today’s podcast:

If you’re placed in a situation where you suspect your convictions will be labeled intolerant, bigoted, narrow-minded, or judgmental, then turn the tables. When someone asks for your personal views about a moral issue, preface your remarks with a question.

Say, “You know, this is actually a very personal question you’re asking. I don’t mind answering, but before I do, I want to know if it’s safe to offer my views.

“So let me ask you a question: Do you consider yourself a tolerant person or an intolerant person? Is it safe to give my opinion, or are you going to judge me for my point of view? Do you respect diverse points of view, or do you condemn others for convictions that differ from your own?”

Now when my friend gives her point of view, it’s going to be very difficult for her boss to call her intolerant or judgmental without looking guilty, too.

This response capitalizes on the fact that there’s no morally neutral ground. Everybody has a point of view she thinks is right and everybody passes judgment at some point or another. The Christian gets pigeon-holed as the judgmental one, but everyone else is judging, too. It’s an inescapable consequence of believing in morality.

Read the rest of Greg’s article here. I can think of a specific instance right now when I used this approach in response to a hostile questioner. It completely defused a very tense situation, enabling us to have a deep, profitable conversation about same-sex marriage that ended with him understanding my position and saying he believed I wasn’t a bigot after all.

Some people object to having tactical questions like this one in mind when speaking to non-Christians because they think tactics are impersonal, but it was the very use of this question that enabled me to be personal with my friend by defusing his anger and defensiveness. I recommend it to you. (See more on how tactics like this one work to increase communication and uphold people’s dignity.)