Remember when political discussions were invigorating debates—challenging opportunities, you might say—where both sides could learn something new and interesting about each other? Neither do we!
Because politically speaking, these are troublesome times. Turn on your TV or spend a few minutes on social media and you’ll see how quickly a political comment or post can turn into a verbal mini war. Many of us have reached a point where we’d rather avoid political conversations than “get into it” once again with a friend, family member, or co-worker. But the problem with avoiding political conversations altogether is that we’re missing out on something important—which is the possibility of compromise.
So, how can we talk politics without getting offended, offensive, loud, and frustrated?
Celeste Headlee, host of the daily news show, “On Second Thought,” puts it this way: “[Political conversations may not] solve the world’s problems, but … not having those conversations can make those problems significantly worse … we must begin to talk, and more important, listen to those who disagree with us … We must have the conversation so we can eventually reach the compromise.”
Headlee offers some excellent strategies on how to talk politics in a constructive way (and please note—these are strategies that can be used in any type of difficult conversastion):
- Don’t try to educate anyone – if your goal is to change the other person’s mind, you’re doomed from the start. Go into it with the goal of listening, even if you strongly disagree.
- Don’t pre-judge – try to understand why the other person believes the way they do, rather than condemning their opinion, or making assumptions about their beliefs.
- Be respectful – stick to the rules of civility: don’t interrupt, don’t raise your voice, repeat the other person’s words to ensure you’ve understood them, take turns speaking.
- Work through any uncomfortableness – it’s okay to agree to disagree. Thank the other person for sharing their thoughts and feelings with you.
Of course, there’s always a possibility that the other person won’t play nicely and if that’s the case, it’s also okay to walk away. But if you stick to the strategies Headlee suggests, you (and the other person) might just walk away a little bit wiser (and a lot less angry).