Talking about politics tends to bring out the worst in people. Issues that we care so much about are so personal to us that when someone challenges them, we take personal offense. But how can we ever reach a middle ground if we’re unwilling to have the conversation? And not just any conversation but one that will lead to a consensus. With the 2020 presidential election only a few days away, and with a lot at stake, it’s crucial that we take the time to explain our positions to others. Others may even include friends, family members and parents. Although a perfect formula doesn’t exist, here are some tips to get the conversation started.
Go into the conversation open-minded
As easy as this may sound, it’s what we all struggle with the most. Our entire life has been built around certain views, morals and values — they make up a big part of our personality. So how should we respond when they’re challenged? I try to view it as a learning experience. You have the opportunity to learn something new, gain a fresh perspective or just learn something about the person you’re talking to. This way, you recognize that you’re willing to take in new information; whatever it may be.
Be willing to participate in active listening
Once the conversations started, here’s the next obstacle you have to face: listening. While this may seem implied, participating in active listening is very different than hearing what the other person has to say. To do this, you must be willing to fully concentrate, understand and respond. At times, we’re listening to defend ourselves and what we think, we’re not listening to understand. As much as we like to blame the “other side” for not listening, we must always reflect on our own behavior and make sure we’re not being hypocritical.
Let’s say you’re talking about healthcare. Person A strongly believes that every citizen should have the right to free healthcare. Person B argues that this would be incredibly expensive to do and would hurt the pockets of those in the working-middle class. Is there something person B could have done differently? Taking a moment to acknowledge the value in what the other person is saying can really change the dynamic of the conversation. If the roles were reversed, Person A should also do the same. By doing this, we can (hopefully) start to see the middle ground, instead of going in circles and never seeing the good in the other person’s perspective. The way we communicate is dynamic and ever-changing, by putting an active effort in listening better, we are doing our part in moving the conversation forward. We must always reflect on our own behavior first before calling out the “other side.”
Never raise your voice
This is my ultimate rule, talking about politics or not, in my book, raising your voice at someone is the ultimate sign of disrespect. This means that you are unwilling to be open-minded and you’re not ready to have this conversation. You do not deserve to be put in this position by anyone. If you do find yourself here, take a moment, breathe and end the conversation. This person isn’t ready to listen and learn.
And if you’re the person screaming, if you ever think that yelling at someone is going to help them see your side, you’re actually giving the extreme opposite effect.
Facts, Facts, Facts
For a lot of us, it’s really easy to bring our emotions into these situations. How can we not? These are issues that are important to us, they affect us and our communities. And you’re allowed to do this. But make sure you’re also prepared to back it up with facts. This way you can say it with your chest. Make sure they come from reliable sources (not Facebook or WhatsApp..) and actually defend your point. BUT, as I stated earlier, you have to be willing to acknowledge when the other person did their research and proved a point.
Don’t be afraid to defend yourself and what you think
Now that we’ve gone over how to conduct ourselves ~civilly~ while we talk. Let me remind you to always be firm, confident and passionate. You deserve to be heard and acknowledged. What you think and what you have to say is important, it’s needed in times like this. You also have the right to not engage with ignorance and end the conversation whenever your boundaries have been violated. But never be afraid of standing up for yourself and others. Don’t underestimate yourself and the power your words hold. You can be the person who moves the conversation forward and upwards.