Saturday, June 27, 2015

How to Have Political Discussions and Keep Your Friends (Yes, It's Possible!)




 "The boy's book of morals and manners (1855) (14764462465)" by Internet Archive Book Images

Ugh.  Politics.  The elephant errr or donkey (see what I did there) in the room at every family gathering.  The article after article on every Facebook news feed.  Politics and political opinions are everywhere these days thanks to social media and the internet.  That is a wonderful and terrible thing.  So much information ready at the click of a button.  And conversely, so much information ready at the click of a button!  Everyone has an opinion and we are more vocal about it than ever!  Sometimes this can cause problems with your friends and family, but it doesn't have to.  Believe it or not, you can have (and express) your own opinion and respect someone else's opinion too!  We are in a weird time in history where social cues dictate that if you don't agree with someone, you are against them.  That just isn't true, not by a long shot.  If you practice these 8 rules when having any sort of hot button issue/political discussion, you can come out of it with your friendship, dignity, and sanity in tact!




1. Embrace conflict.  We are all very different people.  We aren't always going to agree on everything, and honestly that wouldn't be fun anyway, right? Politics doesn't have to come to blows just because someone doesn’t think the way you do.

2. Go after the issue, not each other.  Wow!!! This could be applied to so many things!!!  You are having a discussion about an issue, not how you feel about each other.  Unfortunately, politics seems to bring this out in people (I'm totally guilty of this as well).  If we all remember this rule when having a political discussion, we are wayyyyy less likely to lose friends.




3. Listen respectfully.  Always listen to learn and not just to respond.  Listen to learn.  That has a nice ring to it!  Chances are if you are talking politics, you are very passionate about your stance, but so is the other person.  This is one that is so hard for me!  I have diarrhea of the mouth and this is something I have to work on in pretty much every faction of my life.  It is tough, but totally doable!  Believe me, if I can, you can too!

4. Talk softly.  This is a great tip if you are having a political discussion with someone in person.  The louder you yell, the less likely you are to be heard.  It's going to be hard to follow rules 2 and 3 if you go off the rails!  If you are online, well definitely don't use all caps and wait and think before you instantly start typing your response.

5.  Get curious, not defensive.   Defending yourself, whether by vehemently repeating how right you are or by turning the tables and attacking, escalates the discussion. Instead of upping the ante, ask for more information, details, and examples. There is usually some basis for the other person’s stance on a given issue. When you meet an opposing view with curiosity, you make room for understanding, and you make it more likely that the other person will meet your views with the intent to understand as well.

6.  Ask for specifics.  This goes hand in hand with rule 5. Speaking in generalizations gets you nowhere and most of the time leads to inaccurate statements.  Also asking for specifics may lead to something that you didn't know about!  Imagine that, you might learn something!  And likewise, when you provide specific examples to the other person, you might open their eyes to your views as well!

7.  Find points of agreement.  There is always a middle ground when there are opposing sides.  If you find something about the issue that you can agree on, you both feel much better about having the discussion in the first place.  I have had a political discussion that ended like this:  Me:  I partially agree with you!  Them:  And I partially agree with you!  We should be running mates!  Me:  Haha.  NO.


That's totally how it went.  No lie.  We were on completely opposite sides of an argument and we found a way to meet in the middle.  Then this person wanted me to run for office with them (this person actually holds a public office--so I'm not full of shit--I promise).

8.  Look for options.  Don't just discuss your views, see if you can come up with solutions!  Nothing good ever comes from a political discussion where no solutions are presented.  In fact if you can find middle ground, then you may even be able to collaborate with the other person to come up with a solution!  Hell if you come up with ways to solve some issues, then you should run for office you fierce badass, you!  What's that saying? Something about being the change?


Having these difficult discussions is so important now more than ever. Especially in light of recent events and especially with important elections on the horizon. If we don't find a way to talk to each other, our country is headed in a scary direction. Have a safe and happy 4th of July!

***Amelia Jane***

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