7 RULES on Approaching Authoritarian Supporters

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What if your neighbor, friend or family member supports the authoritarian regime?

Rule 1

Don’t look down on them, don’t patronize them, even if you know what they’re saying has no factual basis or you find it offensive. Don’t preach, ask questions. Try to understand them, where they are coming from, what their problems are and why they see solutions to them in the regime. Treat them as people, as equals. They believe what they’re saying is true and they might have valid reasons for their support.

Rule 2

Don’t get emotional, don’t get provoked into heated arguments. Fight the other side’s emotions with your calm, logical approach. The angrier they get, the calmer you should be. They’ll calm down eventually.

Rule 3

Focus on what you have in common. Do you live in the same neighborhood? Do you work in the same company or sector? The smaller the community, the easier it is. Give examples, like “we all need to get this done for all of us, if we don’t cooperate neither of us will have it”.

Rule 4

Use their language, don’t treat it as inferior or below you – don’t seem patronizing (see rule 1). If they curse, curse with them. If they approach you with humor, don’t get angry or uptight about it, reply with humor. Show them you’re actually not that different (see rule 3). As long as you communicate on two different planes, you will never meet.

Rule 5

Don’t block their news sources, don’t turn away from their leaders and authority figures. Treat them as an insight to their worldview and tactics. Use them to your advantage, to better prepare for their arguments. Whenever you don’t agree with something or detect a lie, voice it calmly, expose it with factual arguments.

Rule 6

Pinpoint the practical, negative effects of their side’s actions, ones that affect them directly. Find examples of how they, their families, children or friends will be personally impacted by their policies, or how it will affect your shared community.

Rule 7

If all else fails, don’t turn away, don’t abandon your friends and family, don’t shun your neighbors. Remember, an authoritarian wants to divide you to control you. So invite them over to your BBQ, crack open a beer, and who knows, maybe they’ll realize you’re not so different after all.


– With love, your Eastern European friends.


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7 Comments on "7 RULES on Approaching Authoritarian Supporters"

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Thank you. Some of my day job is around diversity and inclusion so I have been reading up on what works to encourage inclusion, and we keep coming back to building those bridges. Ask questions, share personal experiences, have a conversation, refuse to abandon.

Of all the good things on this blog, I have to disagree with this post. These techniques have failed as the supporters have embraced a totally post-truth world. Armed with their false facts they refuse to consider anything that they consider mainstream media, ie vetted investigative reporting. These supporters laugh… Read more »
Sam, as was said earlier, from my years of experience with populist/authoritarian supporters here in Poland I can tell you it doesn’t work. What your approach does is deepen the divide, further anger and antagonize them, distance them. Ironically, it reinforces their views on the “liberal elite” which speaks a… Read more »
Hi Sam, One of the things I do is to try and truly find out where the other is coming from. Go deeper than todays headline, and try to understand the other. I find it very difficult sometimes, but it’s always rewarding. You could start by reading, and challenging yourself… Read more »



Good point Maartje about trying to understand where the other person is coming from. I’ll try to incorporate it into the list if you don’t mind. Thanks!

Your approach, Sam, is obviously easier and more gratifying, but less likely to be effective than that suggested in this blog, for two reasons. First, it still leaves you and your opponents on two different planes, rational communication between which is impossible. Second, ridiculing and insulting people is likely to… Read more »