At a time when it seems the United States hasn’t been more divided, it’s important that we discuss how we can talk to each other. A 2014 Pew Study found that over a quarter of Facebook users “hidden, blocked, defriended, or stopped following someone” on Facebook due to their political postings. And two-thirds of consistent conservatives told Pew that most of their close friends share their views on government and politics, compared to just over half, or 52 percent, of consistent liberals.
There is no improvement if we isolate ourselves from who we consider to be the “others’ and only communicate with those who share our thoughts and beliefs. How will we ever learn from other people and understand any other perspective if we live this way? We won’t. And we’ll continue on this spiral of further division if we don’t start making more of an effort to understand and listen to differences.
So how do we move forward? Have a conversation with someone who has a different belief on any topic than you. Talk politics. View this as an opportunity to learn. To learn a different perspective, and perhaps learn more about a topic. Ensure this is the lens that you use to view the conversation. This is not a debate or an effort to convert one person to the other side, although it’s possible that can be the result. Often times we make decisions and hold beliefs based on limiting information, and hearing more information may change our minds. However, this is more of an opportunity for acceptance of other thoughts and beliefs.
Try these tips to ensure that it’s an effective conversation:
Listen. I mean REALLY listen
To be clear, in no way am I saying that you have to agree with everything that someone says, but I am saying that it’s necessary that you listen. Don’t hold on to responses in your mind. If a thought pops up while the person is speaking, let it go. Maybe it’ll come back, or maybe it won’t. Be ok with this.
Don’t make the mistake of seeing the “others” as evil
Just because someone thinks differently than you, that doesn’t make them wrong. Recognize that everyone doesn’t have to think like you. People have experiences in their lives that lead them to form their beliefs, so take the time to understand the reason why they think the way that they do. If you already write someone off as bad, you’ll likely feel there’s nothing you can learn from them and talking to them would be a waste of time. This is a grand mistake.
Watch your words
It’s so easy to say something is stupid or doesn’t make any sense, when you don’t agree with it. But when you do this, it’ll likely come across as an attack on the person instead of a conversation about the particular issue at hand. Instead, be specific about what you don’t agree with and why. You can certainly talk politics without attacking in this way.
Clearly share your thoughts and beliefs
Be vulnerable and open yourself up to questions about your thoughts. Be prepared to talk about why you hold the beliefs that you do. Although it can be extremely difficult not to become emotional when you feel you’re being attacked, you must try your best not to do so as it will only escalate the conversation and make it difficult for you both to hear each other.
While my husband and I share some beliefs, there are many topics that we disagree about including politics. Through our conversations about our differing thoughts, we’ve been able to challenge ourselves. We’ve been given the opportunity to see other perspectives on issues and have learned more about why we think the way that we do. By not viewing each other as the “other” or “evil” we’ve become more accepting of diverse opinions and perspectives. So, if two people with varying political beliefs can build a home, then I believe we can certainly do this for our country.