Now that we’re in the thick of the holiday season, it might be worth brushing up on ways to have productive political conversations with those loved ones whose opinions might differ from your own. Whether your family is choosing to gather over the holidays or you’re just engaging in family Zoom calls, the topic of politics has a way of coming up—perhaps particularly this year. As RBG said, “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” So, while it’s easier to get angry and write off those who disagree with you (and I’m certainly guilty of it too), that’s not actually the most effective method of discussion. Here are some things I try to do when having conversations with people I don’t typically agree with; give them a spin the next time you find yourself entering a potentially blood pressure-raising verbal exchange!
Go into the discussion with an open mind
Look, this does not come naturally to me. I’m just as guilty as anyone when it comes to categorizing people based off of what little I know about them. This means that sometimes before I even start a conversation with someone, I’ve already decided we aren’t going to agree and they’re on the “wrong” side. This mindset sabotages a potentially productive conversation before it’s even begun! The times I’ve managed to kick that nasty little habit have proven to be quite effective, so I would recommend trying it. I’m not saying you have to keep an open mind when someone has proven themselves to be blatantly racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. However, most people I personally know aren’t like that, which means there’s potential. Utilize that potential!
Understand that you might not reach 100% agreement
In my experience, conversations are the most beneficial when the goal is to make some form of progress—even if it’s small—rather than flip someone’s opinion entirely. To use another RBG quote, “Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time.” In this case, one conversation at a time. If you aim to teach someone one thing instead of make them agree with you completely, you’ll have a much higher success rate. I mean, think about it. If someone were trying to change your mind, do you think they’d have better luck making you see one aspect or an entire issue their way? Probably the former, right?
Be willing to admit you were wrong or change your own opinion if need be
This is probably the piece of advice I’m the worst at taking, but it’s an important part of being an adult. There are so many issues in the world and so many aspects to those issues, you’re just not going to know everything about all of them. There have been several times where my opponent in a debate taught me something I didn’t know, and my ego was wounded, but I was better for it. Life is partially about learning and admitting when you were wrong. I still have a long way to go in this department, but I recognize the importance of improving this part of myself. What’s that saying? “There’s no shame in being wrong, only in not being able to admit it when you are”? That’s the gist of it at least, and I couldn’t agree more.
Good luck, and Happy Holidays!
Related blog posts:
Wanna Talk?: https://shoutoutjmu.com/2011/10/27/wanna-talk/
Living With a Trump Supporter (and those with conflicting ideologies): https://shoutoutjmu.com/2016/02/25/living-with-a-trump-supporter-and-those-with-conflicting-ideologies/