Avoid hostile impositions | Inquirer Opinion

Avoid hostile impositions

Have you tried asking people who they would vote for in the upcoming national elections? Most of them would have a particular candidate in mind, but their personal answer would likely be prompted by a remark that prejudges and antagonizes the preference of the responder, which often leads to hostility.

It is fascinating how one simple preferential question can result in an instantaneous tension between the inquisitor and the responder, without much-needed explanation as to why the latter prefers his or her candidate. Hostility solidifies the polarization between citizens and prevents a common ground of understanding, which in the long term prevents collaboration and an informed citizenry.


Hostility does not come from the answer of the responder. What sparks hostility is the impression of the inquisitor imposing a preference in opposition to that of the responder’s. The spark ignites a powder keg that catches the responder off guard. The polite response is to quench the flame of hostility through silence and nonconfrontation, but the tension and discontent will likely smolder in the atmosphere.

As much as we strive to achieve an informed citizenry through collaboration and inclusivity, this manner of questioning, with an implied hostile imposition of preference, cannot at all contribute to such a noble objective. We must understand that we need to engage in such conversations with a more open mind. We must be willing to understand the reason for the responder’s preferred candidate in the upcoming national elections.


While we must avoid fanning the flames of hostility, we should, of course, not divorce ourselves from engaging in political discourse, especially at this time when sincere dialogue and cooperation have become scarce. Ask people who they would vote for, then inquire in a measured way why they prefer such a candidate. Understand their preference, instead of torching their opinion by imposing reasons why they should think otherwise. Continue the conversation by directing your inquiries to the responder’s explanation about their preference.

We must not package the conversation with the aim of proselytizing with our own opinion. Engage in discourse for the sake of understanding where the responder is coming from and how he or she formulated the choice for a preferred candidate. Engage not to ignite hostility and impose our views, but to immerse ourselves in a deep sense of common understanding and dialogue as equal citizens of our republic.

Establishing a nonhostile dialogue this way is just one aspect of achieving the kind of informed citizenry we need. The absence of any hostile imposition leaves the avenue open for an environment that facilitates discussion. The inquisitor can avoid answering a similar question about preference without likewise feeling hostile.

The responder’s piqued interest, brought about by the inquisitor’s curiosity and willingness to listen, allows for open-mindedness, which can now result in a calm exchange of insights. Who knows, it may even lead to gradual persuasion.

Influencing a person to think differently about something must not be made through the hostile imposition of a contrary perspective. It is achieved through persuasion as a result of fostering common understanding and openness via sincere dialogue. If we must promote a position or a preference in the upcoming national elections, let us do so through amiable actions and accommodating conversations, and not through hostile impositions.


Ulpiano “Storm” Z. Sarmiento is a lawyer.

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TAGS: 2022, election, opinion, politics, vote
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