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Talking politics with friends and family: tips for constructive dialogue

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Toronto chapter.

Today, political dialogue is all too often left out of social gatherings with friends and family. Abortion, women’s rights, wars around the world, racism can be polarizing subjects that may turn a friendly get-together into a battleground of conflicting opinions. Understandably, many of us prefer to avoid these conversations altogether to prevent tensions, hurt feelings, and strained relationships.

This is unfortunate. Especially when, if approached thoughtfully, these conversations can present opportunities for understanding, growth, and genuine dialogue.

My recent experience living in Buenos Aires, Argentina during a highly polarizing time – the presidential election – taught me valuable lessons. Whether it be in class, on the street, at the supermarket, at parties or in taxis, politics was not a subject I could escape. My views were opposite to those of the majority of the locals regarding Milei, their current president. I was forced to learn to navigate these conversations to avoid feeling frustrated on the daily. While difficult, these discussions allowed me to better understand Argentinian politics.

Here are some tips to enhance your conversational skills and navigate challenging discussions:

  • Active listening

Truly listen without interrupting the other. Instead of waiting for your turn to speak, make an effort to fully engage with what the other person is saying.

Approach the conversation with an open mind and a willingness to consider perspectives different from your own. Seek to understand the underlying motivations and beliefs driving the other person’s viewpoint, even if you ultimately disagree with them.

  • Check your body language and tone

These can significantly impact the direction of the conversation. Maintain clam and respect to convey openness and receptivity.

  • Use “I” statements

This helps conveying your perspective without imposing it on others.

  • Find common ground

Look for areas of agreement or shared values. This creates a sense of shared interest and facilitates constructive communication.

  • Research

Support your arguments with facts, statistics and real-world examples. This demonstrates your commitment to informed discussion and adds credibility to your argument.

  • Set boundaries

This promotes healthy communication and prevents conflicts from escalating.

  • Acknowledge differences – agree to disagree

Accept that it’s normal to have differing opinions and perspectives.

  • Don’t take things personally

Remember that disagreements on complex issues are not personal attacks. Maintain perspective and refrain from taking disagreements personally.

  • Know when to end the discussion

Respectfully disengage from the discussion, preserving relationships and preventing further escalation.

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Romanne Redouté

U Toronto '25

I'm a fourth-year university student at the University of Toronto, completing a double major in Economics and Political Science. I am French and Canadian, after having lived 14 years in Bordeaux, I moved to Toronto for University. When I'm not studying, you'll find me out and about, exploring new places. Whether it's wandering around Buenos Aires during my semester abroad or checking out cool spots in Toronto, I'm always up for an adventure.