Here we are again…
The seemingly inevitable political divide that happens every four years.
We’re being bombarded with endless opinions, ads, commercials, and conversations about what side is going to win or what side will help us advance the most.
And for some reason it seems that this divide that haunts our country seems to get more intense every year...
It feels as though you have to hate one side to be accepted by the other, otherwise you’re deemed as someone that doesn’t care about the future of your country.
Let me tell you, your feelings of frustration are completely valid.
Even if you are someone that is devoted to one side, it can still be exhausting to have to continually “fight” or prove things for your beliefs.
But what if we started a movement, a way of handling this climate differently.
Just you and I... changing our perspectives on the hostile political climate to spark a change in the way our country goes about this every four years.
What if rather than trying to push our views on other people, we tried to understand theirs instead?
What if we were able to have political conversations without feeling the need to win people over to “our side?”
What if we didn’t allow politics to come between friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers?
What would happen if we were able to talk about opposing views at the dinner table without having to worry about a disastrous outcome?
It may seem like a pretty far-fetched idea, but I truly believe that with practice we can all become better listeners while still holding onto the views we believe in.
So where do we begin?
Learning how to Conversate
You may think you have the whole talking thing figured out, right? Not every conversation ends in a fight so you must be pretty decent...
The truth is, a lot of us don’t actively take part in the conversations we have. We are typically so worried about getting our points across that we forget or ignore the other person completely.
When you’re going to have a difficult conversation there are some things to practice that help to ease the environment no matter what everyone’s views are.
From understanding yourself to seeing others in a different light, let’s take a look at how to practice becoming a great conversational partner.
1. Take note of your feelings before starting a conversation
No matter if you’re talking about politics, religion, or who left the toilet seat up again, taking note of your feelings before you tackle difficult discussions can help you register where you’re at.
If you’re exhausted, had a stressful day at work, or have had the worst headache of your life for the past four hours, having a difficult conversation at that specific moment may not be the best idea.
However, if there’s no time to wait, simply stating what you’re feeling prior to chatting can help the other person understand where you’re coming from.
This may help them take things less personally and it can help you understand that it may not be the other person causing difficult feelings. It’s simply the fact that the three hours of sleep you squeezed in last night weren’t quite enough.
2. Be aware of physiological responses
Oftentimes our emotions will spark bodily symptoms that can help you or another person register what you’re feeling.
Maybe when you’re angry the volume of your voice starts to gradually increase, your speech speeds up, or your face gets slightly red. Maybe you notice that you suddenly have the urge to stand up and tower over the other person.
When you start to feel these things happening during a discussion take note of them and question why you’re feeling that way.
Are you not feeling heard? Are you frustrated that they aren’t understanding your viewpoint?
When you identify what the cause of your physiological reactions are, you can state the source to the other person.
This of course takes a bit of vulnerability, but being vulnerable is better than blowing up on them for something they may not even realize they’re doing.
Once you’ve mastered how to understand your physiological responses you can start to recognize other people’s triggers as well.
For example, Maybe your cousin starts to speed up her speech and even starts shaking a bit when frustrated.
If you notice this, you can give her time to feel heard at that moment. You can ask leading questions to help her realize that you’re truly listening just to listen, not to respond.
3. Aim to listen, not persuade
When it comes to politics, people often have very strong views about why their side is correct, and maybe you do too!
There is nothing wrong with believing so firmly in what you stand for, however, there is something wrong when that belief destroys your ability to listen to opposing views.
Just because you’re listening to someone talk about their views on certain topics doesn’t mean that you are agreeing with them. Since when does listening equate agreeing?
You’re not “switching sides” and no one is asking you to.
We all have something we can learn from each other, and by listening to other viewpoints we may gain a bit of understanding about why other people believe certain ways.
This listening can either:
a) reaffirm your beliefs or
b) cause you to change them because you choose to.
Politics does not always have to be a battle about trying to win others over. You can talk about your views with a civil understanding that not everyone will agree with you... and that’s okay.
4. Understand their perspective
Maybe someone has such strong views about health insurance because their grandmother died without access to any healthcare coverage.
Maybe someone supports abortions because their sister had preexisting conditions and could have still been alive today had she had access to help early on.
You never know what the underlying factors are in someone’s beliefs, and they may never open up about them because of the vulnerability it takes to do so.
You yourself may have situations that have caused you to believe so strongly in your standpoint and it’s a beautiful thing that you value standing true to that belief system.
However, it’s important to understand that others may have gone through completely different experiences that have caused them to create their own belief systems too.
Fighting and arguing with someone whose situations are completely opposite of yours will not help them change their mind. In fact, it will most likely end that relationship instead.
So rather than constantly trying to persuade them, try to understand where they’re coming from, and help them to understand your “side” as well.
5. Avoid negative targeting
I don’t think this one takes too much explaining, but I do think it’s an important topic to touch on.
Therefore... I’m going to keep it nice and simple for you all...
Are you ready?
No name calling, no trash talking, and no childish behaviors.
Keep it civil, keep it polite, and act right.
Maybe it’s easier said than done for some, but you got this!
Don’t allow the politics of this country to divide and conquer our humanity. We as citizens can understand that we’re all a part of the same country and we are all simply trying our best to take this country in the right direction.
Sure, we may see differently about how to go about it, but by bringing people together rather than dividing maybe we’ll realize that we aren’t so different after all.