When using this tool for deepening conversational engagement, it may be that you want to nourish a new friendship with someone you just met. However, this tool also comes in handy when navigating the treacherous task of wanting to change someone’s mind.

In either case, the tool is this: Move between the abstract and the concrete.

<-- Abstract ----------- Concrete -->

Abstract ideas are intangible. They aren’t meaningless necessarily, they just can’t be absolutely referenced to something that transcends interpretation. Concrete ideas are the opposite. This is why abstract ideas work so well in politics. This is why you don’t rally your audience about the concrete details, limitations, and applications of a law, but in “protecting our children.” It’s why we have two schools of thoughts in abortion rights that prefer either “pro choice” or “pro life” even though everyone across those groups is both an advocate of individual choice and the preservation of life in general.

Political persuasion uses labels to refer to concepts that are actually abstract like freedom, choice, equality, and so on. Republicans refer to the restrictive voting laws passed in Georgia in 2021 as protecting election integrity while Democrats denounced them as voter suppression. The point is you'll agree with both in the abstract (we should protect election integrity and prevent voter suppression) but will take one side in the concrete (we should/should not allow the public to offer water to people waiting in line to vote).

This should give you an idea of what abstract and concrete mean, so we’re ready to see how it helps us with deep and meaningful engagement.