This year is a huge election year and everyone has an opinion. People also feel the need to share their opinion with others around them. Every now and then we may think, “You are wrong. You are entitled to your opinion but your opinion is wrong.” While it may be okay to think this, saying it out loud may not be the most tactful response.
There are ways to discuss politics in a respectful manner. We may have been told it is best to not discuss politics but that is not always the case. College is a time to expand our knowledge and understanding of the world– by not having these discussions we are doing ourselves a disservice. This year the Presidential Election is such a hot topic that it is an unavoidable and inevitable conversation. The secret is learning how to engage in productive conversations.
Understand the Issue
It is so easy to focus on one point of view and how one policy will impact one group in particular, usually yourself. While it is natural to make a judgement based on personal experience, it is important not to forget other socioeconomic groups and those who hold different beliefs than you. Every individual has a different background and that will lead to differences of opinion. Understanding the facts, the proposed idea(s) and the different expected outcomes will lead to a more informed and hopefully less biased judgement.
Know the Facts
A discussion based on facts is stronger than one founded purely on hypotheticals. When you are reading information from different sources keep in mind that you will subconsciously ignore facts of an opposing view. This is called Confirmation Bias and it can hinder any research or discussion you have. Investigating a topic with preconceived notations can lead you to seek out information that supports your beliefs, hindering any growth.
At times, it can be difficult to listen to (or read) opposing viewpoints but it is necessary if you want to understand their ideas. Without an unbiased collection of facts and ideas you cannot draw a complete conclusion.
Establish Common Ground
Establishing some common ground and shared basic beliefs will create a bond of good feelings on either side of the conversation that will hopefully continue throughout the conversation.
At times, this may seem easier said than done. It is important to realize that many of the discussions around politics are set in the future where it is assumed that all other conditions will remain constant. As we know, our political climate is constantly changing; this hypothetical result is often exaggerated in one way or another. If you find yourself in an alarmed state you will be unable to properly process what the speaker is saying. If you become agitated take a deep breath and consider how fortunate we are to have citizens that care so much about the future of our country and the world.
Remember that any political conversation is not about winning or losing. It is about understanding and expanding your knowledge.