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How To Talk To Someone Who Believes In A Conspiracy Theory

Throughout history, conspiracy theories have divided friends and families. In this day and age when information travels fast, these can now spread at a much faster pace. And in this time of social media, like-minded people can easily build communities and organizations. In other words, conspiracy theories…

… are dividing more and more families. Children and parents are having a difficult time communicating because they have different understandings of basic facts. The problem is frustrating for everyone involved…

Anyone can be led to believing in a conspiracy theory. Caddie Alford, an assistant professor in the Department of English in the College of Humanities and Sciences at Virginia Commonwealth University, cites the example of Valerie Gilbert, a Harvard-educated writer who believes in the QAnon conspiracy theory.

Gilbert writes about the theory on her Facebook page and communicates with many followers of QAnon… Gilbert’s sister was worried about her and tried to talk to her about her beliefs. After being confronted, Gilbert cut off all ties with her family. Her relationship to the QAnon community was important and something she valued. 
“To Gilbert, that seemed condescending and outside the scope of their relationship,” Alford said. “It also just struck Gilbert as odd because she feels she is currently living her best, most enlightened life.”

What draws people into believing in conspiracy theories? Alford states that it is not the theory that draws people, but the sense of community.

So how should we talk to people who believe in one?

Alford suggests conversations around conspiracy theories should be aimed at understanding rather than arguing. She claims that with any belief, there is a kernel of truth. A person should ask probing questions and try to better understand the beliefs. People are likely to argue and become defensive when someone takes a position against their beliefs. They are more likely to answer a question where the aim is to understand.

(Image Credit: Comfreak/ Pixabay)


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I feel like the truth falls somewhere in the middle when it comes to things like this. Is there a long history of real conspiracies, either by individuals or governments, against its own people? Sure. But that's where the problem lies. Because people can point to the past, or patterns, they start thinking "conspiracy" is the vehicle by which everything travels. I feel like everyone has at least some conspiracy theories they believe in, most of which won't lead to harming anyone. At least not directly or intentionally. So I usually just let people believe what they want. Unless I want to engage for entertainment purposes. Also I don't believe in Free Will so, I have no reason to persuade you from your theories.
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How to talk to conspiracy theorists: Step 1:Agree. Step 2: Walk away. If they pursue and want to talk more, Step 3: Tell them to go away because they should not talk about this sort of thing in public. .
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I have a customer who believes in Ashtar Sheran the great commander of the intergalactic fleet and distributes flyers to my teammates... he also believes in eating raw garlic in the morning. Let's say it's difficult to talk to him :)
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Sorry, no. There doesn't have to be even the smallest kernel of truth in a conspiracy theory. And, sadly, the more you ask a conspiracy theorist to explain, the more likely they are to become even more rooted in it -- and are now going to attempt to convince you of why their wackadoodle belief is right and true.
There is nothing to be gained by "understanding" that someone believes that Democrats and "Hollywood elite" drink the blood of babies or that Trump actually won the election he so clearly lost or that the earth is flat.
All we can do is think of and treat them as mentally ill and hope that eventually they once again return to reality.
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