Talking Politics Constructively

Regardless of your political leanings, we can all agree that politics are getting more polarized and emotionally charged.  No matter whether you’re on Facebook, at the water cooler, or at the dinner table, political conversations are there, and they’re charged.  Depending on your family or workplace, this could make social situations feel difficult or unwelcome.  Given the wide range of opinions and news sources out there, when political conversations do come up, people can get stuck, and emotions can run high.  Talking politics gets tough, because it’s easy to stew in self-affirmation, but people need to have different kinds of conversations where people of different views try to understand each other, as opposed to tear each other down.  I recently read an article talking about some of the pitfalls people make when they talk politics, and I thought I would discuss some of them with you:

Preaching to the choir: It’s easy to only want to talk politics with people who agree with you; it keeps you safe, and allows you to enjoy a feeling of being right.  But it’s not going to help you learn from others or come to positive understandings.  Instead of walking around in circles of self-affirmation, when talking to like-minded people, think about how you can make a difference, and the conversations that you’re avoiding.  

Starting out too aggressive: If we do have political discussions, we often start out way too strong, fueled by self-righteousness and a belief that whoever on the opposite side is inherently wrong.  But if you start out a conversation like this, your thoughts and prejudices are guaranteed to get in the way.  Before you start a political conversation, stop, take a deep breath, and reflect upon your thoughts and prejudices.  

Giving up: A lot of political discussions are based around personal opinion.  One person might be pro-choice, the other might be pro-life, and they can scream at each other all they want, but probably won’t convince each other.  When talks break down, we end up solidifying our own prejudices.  Instead, use this to learn, looking back on the conversations and asking what would happen if you weren’t as aggressive.  When conversations go well, think about it, share the success with others, and think about what happened to get there.  

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