Comfortable Ways to Talk About Uncomfortable Political Topics

Politics has always been a controversial topic. Especially with the current political climate, it can be hard to bring it up without offending someone. Just about every college student knows someone who “doesn’t do politics”. On the other end of the spectrum, they probably also know someone who is so passionate about their beliefs that they aren’t willing to listen to anyone who opposes them.

However, it’s important to talk about politics in order to share ideas and learn from other opinions. So what do you do if you want to talk about a current political event, but feel awkward bringing it up at the dinner table or with friends? Here are some tips on how to get comfortable with uncomfortable political topics:

Listen To The Other Side

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There’s a concept in psychology called confirmation bias, which is the idea that people only accept facts that confirm their existing opinions and ignore everything else. It can be easy to surround yourself with people who have the same beliefs as you. However, even if you don’t agree with someone’s beliefs at all, be willing to at least listen to what they have to say. Immediately attacking someone based on their beliefs will only make the conversation more divisive. While talking about politics doesn’t always lead to compromise, making an effort towards understanding the other side’s perspective is definitely still a start.

Learn More About Political Issues

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If you’re talking about politics, try to back it up with some research. It’s a good feeling when someone questions your argument and you’re able to pull up some receipts. A lot of people tend to get their information from tweets or Facebook posts, but the best way to be informed is by reading the news. It might sound boring and tedious, but there are actually ways to get updated on the most important headlines quickly and efficiently.

Firstly, you can sign up to get a briefing from the New York Times every morning, which provides all the major previous day’s events in one email. Another interesting news site is Above the Fold, which takes the top news articles from different news outlets such as the Wall Street Journal, CBS, NPR, etc. and puts them all on one page. It’s a perfect way to compare news from publications that swing left, right, or are more neutral.

Get Involved

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There are many ways you can find people willing to talk about politics at Rutgers in a constructive space. The easiest way would be signing up for a course in the political science department; there are classes ranging from Intro to International Relations, to American Government, to Law and Politics. In these classes, you would not only have an opportunity to talk about political issues but also get valuable insight from a professor who has studied politics for years.

Another way to be involved is through clubs and events at Rutgers. For example, IDIA-Rutgers is an organization that runs Model United Nations for high school students in New Jersey. There are also a variety of other social action and political student organizations can be found here on the Rutgers getINVOLVED website. As for events, there are always political protests and marches that you can join if it’s a cause that you truly care about. For example, last year Rutgers students protested for a $15 minimum wage for university employees.

Be Willing To Be Wrong

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Most importantly, be comfortable with sometimes being wrong. Part of learning and growing as a person is sometimes changing your opinion, and acknowledging that the beliefs you have now may not be the same beliefs you have in the future. The worst thing you can do is be defensive and closed off when someone corrects you. If you don’t know something, it’s always better to admit you didn’t know than to stick to a belief out of pride.

Overall, it might be hard to bring up a hot button issue, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid talking about politics altogether. Even if it’s uncomfortable at first, start small and follow these tips with just a friend or two. Politics shouldn’t be a taboo subject because these are issues and policies that affect everyone in the country. Bringing these topics to the table will sometimes lead to extremely enriching conversations, and at the very least help you push past your comfort zone.