As was talked about in the previous article, in today’s age, it’s important to keep the conversation going with those who disagree with us in political conversations for many reasons including the ability to provide connection and create better solutions for everyone. We talked about how, by being kind and remembering the people behind the conversations, and learning to emphatically listen and understand who they are and their different life experiences. Now, let’s build on that and provide some examples.
Empathy, Empathy, Empathy
Remember to focus on the people you are talking to rather than on the politics themselves. Connect with the person, and share relatable experiences about the political topic you’re discussing. And remember, don’t take their political beliefs as a personal attack on you. They’re speaking from their own experiences and have lived a life that might be completely different from your own. So make your questions and responses expository rather than accusatory. Once they’ve responded, empathically listen and repeat what they have to say before sharing.
|Why don’t you support affordable healthcare reform?||I had great healthcare before the ACA, but now my costs have more than tripled since it came into force.|
|Why is that your stance on immigration?||I actually was brought here by my parents when I was just a baby. So I’m technically an immigrant, yet I’ve spent my whole life in this country. I feel like a citizen.|
|What are the reasons you feel like that about abortion?||I feel like people aren’t given enough information about their other options, such as adoption.|
|What do you feel like the minimum wage should be at?||I went to school for seven years to get my degrees, and the wages they started me off at weren’t enough for rent and other living expenses, plus paying off my student loans. If they increase the minimum wage, why shouldn’t I get an increase too?|
Focus on what you have in common, rather than on what makes you different. Take time to bond with the person, and give plenty of time to talk about the issues and topics you do agree on, in order to help soften the blow when it comes time to discuss the things you don’t. Keep an open mind, and open ears, and listen to what they are saying, ask them plenty of questions to open up your own perspective, and continue finding common ground.
|My cousin is in the Air Force, and I just don’t think it’s right to cut military spending, do you?||Hey, my (someone, friend, relative, chances are we all know someone in the military) is in the military too. It’s got to be so scary thinking about them not getting the support they need!|
|Don’t you think that we should be increasing taxes on the rich?||Well, I know I definitely feel like I’m getting taxed too much, and we need to do more for the infrastructure regardless. Have you thought about…?|
|I really think we should have universal healthcare, don’t you?||I know I’m tired of my healthcare being so expensive, that’s for sure! Here is how I think we should handle it…|
Face the Facts
Today, when trolls abound and fake news is everywhere, it’s easier than ever to find ourselves falling victim to using false, or poorly backed evidence in our political arguments. So let’s make sure that we hold political convictions that actually make sense, not just because it’s the position our friends take. Once we understand and have developed our own ideas on the topic, keep researching! Find out as much as you can about the issues at hand, educate yourself, and then stick to those facts and be open to learning more. This will help us not become over-emotional or confrontational about it when discussing it with someone who feels differently.
|Yeah, but how do I know that’s true? Where did you hear that?||Actually, it’s from this article in the New York Times (or some other peer-reviewed and reputable source).|
|What are your thoughts on stem cell research?||I actually haven’t looked into it too much, so I’m not sure. Where can I learn more?|
|Have you read about the recent issues with China and the WTO?||No, I haven’t! Where’d you find out about it? I’d love to read more.|
Talk it up, Don’t talk them down
Rather than being confrontational with someone you know has differing political views from you, adapt to your audience, and try to advocate for your own views rather than oppose theirs. Avoid saying things, maybe specific words or examples that you know are likely to upset whoever you’re speaking with. Instead, talk about it in a way that will help them to understand where you’re coming from, your point of view. Even if it doesn’t change the way they think about it, hopefully, it will help them empathize and see things from a new perspective.
|Don’t you think that it’s wrong to say that someone is better than another?||I think it’s more about drawing attention to the fact that one group is being marginalized and excluded.|
|Why don’t you support that regulation bill? Doesn’t the environment matter to you?||Of course, it does, but I just think that this isn’t the right direction, there’s more work to be done on this bill.|
Sometimes, not every topic in politics has to be discussed with every person. In some cases, your relationship is more valuable than discord that may ensue over specific, sensitive political subjects. So avoid the dangerous topics, and stick with things that are less volatile, maybe going with local politics instead of national, or focus on the policies rather than the political parties. Look at how the respondent changed the tone of the conversation in each of these examples.
|Did you hear about that abortion bill they just passed in Texas?||I haven’t read much about it yet, but I was just reading about the school district’s new budget. Have you heard about it yet?|
|Don’t you just hate how pushy the Green Party is with its environmental agenda?||Well, I don’t know much about their liberal agenda, but what are your thoughts on the news on the new tax reform bill?|
|What are your thoughts on the Vietnam War? Wasn’t that just a disaster?||I’m not sure, but I was just reading about it. It seems like it was a difficult situation all around. Why do you feel like it was a disaster?|