Just like that, it’s fall again. The air is crisp, the leaves crunchy—the holiday season is upon us. Your mom sends you the dos and don’ts list for the Thanksgiving dinner. Top of the list again? Do not discuss politics with your uncle Roger! Politics is one of the subjects we were taught to avoid around family and friends, so generally people we still want in our lives. But do we really have to? After all, are we not a reasonably intelligent species? Surely we must be able to have discussions about things like politics without it resulting in major catastrophes.
Talking Politics: Why Do We Avoid It?
In order to learn how to discuss politics with our friends and come out the other end “alive,” we must first understand why this topic is so sensitive for most of us. Politics, much like a lot of other topics that are considered taboo or a big no-no to discuss in a social setting, is a rather personal matter. Simply put, who someone supports politically can say a lot about who they are as a person. That is why, if you find out your childhood best friend supports someone who represents the opposite of all the things you stand for, your opinion of them might change, to say the least. So, how do you avoid ruining relationships over differences in political views?
Find the Right Time and Place to Discuss Politics
So, we have all heard of “wrong place, wrong time” when describing someone stuck in a bad situation out of sheer bad luck. Fortunately, we have some control over if, when, and where we take part in a political discussion. We have already established that Thanksgiving dinner and generally all social gatherings are not the place to initiate or participate in political discussions. But when and where can we talk about politics? Like most discussions between people, the time and setting of said discussion play an important role in its outcome. Places that should be off-limits to you for discussing politics if you fear a bad outcome are:
- The comment section of an online discussion
- Social/ holiday gatherings
A simple solution to this might be a face-to-face conversation with someone. An in-person discussion is far better than an online discussion. Online, people tend to get into heated arguments quite easily and maybe forget they are talking to another human being.
Don’t Set Out to Prove Others Wrong
An important thing to keep in mind is that how you start things is usually an indication of how they will end. So we ask you: When was the last time you were full of the joys of spring when someone pointed out you were wrong? You can’t remember, right? Well, no one likes being told they are wrong, especially on a subjective topic such as politics. Therefore, if you start a conversation or discussion with the sole purpose of ‘winning’ it as much as humiliating the other person, you have set yourself up for failure. Numerous studies show that confirmation bias not only prevents people from changing their opinions but helps reinforce them. So, try to:
- Listen to your friend’s arguments.
- Concentrate on the discussion rather than changing their mind.
Control Your Body Language and Tone
Other details we need to pay attention to are our body language and the tone of our voice. Try to keep the conversation as civil as possible by:
- Keep your voice at a normal level.
- Use your body language in a constructive manner.
- Avoid using derogatory terms.
- Avoid laughing at/ making fun of the other person.
These tips are necessary for all types of arguments. No one likes being shouted at or made fun of. Any light discussion between friends could turn into a heated argument if the people involved ignored the rules mentioned above. Add to this the fact that politics tends to be a sensitive topic for most of us- and any discussion on politics is a recipe for disaster.
Stop Thinking About What You Will Say Next
If we stopped thinking about arguments or discussions as something to be won, we could actually learn a lot from our day-to-day encounters with other people. One of the most common reasons people fight is the fact that they do not listen to each other. When arguing with someone about a certain topic, politics included, people tend to concentrate more on their comeback rather than process what the other person is saying. No party has to change their minds in order for the discussion to be considered fruitful. Sometimes it’s just about exchanging ideas and trying to understand who your friend is and what they stand for.
Know When to Put an End to the Discussion
Finally, knowing when and how to end the discussion is a must. Sometimes, despite all our efforts, the person we engage in conversation with just won’t cooperate. There are signs in a discussion that you can look for to know exactly when to end the conversation. Walk away from the discussion when:
- The conversation isn’t civil anymore.
- One of the parties loses their temper/control.
- You believe your efforts for a productive conversation are futile.
Even if both parties manage to follow the rules mentioned above, sometimes it is clear that the discussion is heading nowhere or worse—a heated argument. As is the case with most things in life, preventing something is always easier than fixing it, so for the sake of the friendship, go with the ‘agree to disagree’ option and move on.
In the end, it is essential to remember why articles like this exist, ones where a discussion on politics has its own category. There is a reason why people have learned to avoid talking about such topics in order to preserve relationships. Political orientation is a personal matter, and it is rarely black and white. But that doesn’t mean we can’t talk about it. Discussions on politics, if done right, help us share ideas, learn more about the people in our lives and what they believe in, and simply expand our horizons.