Thursday, October 15, 2020

Dad Advice: Talking About Politics

Maddie and Gracie,

At the time of this writing there are only 19 days remaining until Election Day 2020. As you have noticed, it seems politics in America today has become more intense, angry, and even violent at times - though, surprisingly, there have been worse moments of political discord in our Nation's past (see The American Civil War). For this piece of advice though, let's just focus on personal political interactions. As we have seen, political conversations can create animosity between friends and family members - as especially seen on social media (see my previous post). 


The problem with expressing political opinions in a conversation or in social media posts is that a simple discussion can quickly descend into an intense and bitter argument. This is in part because a person's political views are formed by their beliefs and ideologies, which are representative and informative to an individual's personal identity. An individual's political beliefs are forged through a multitude of factors like parental influence, growth environment, education, religion, and a diversity of personal experiences. To debate a political issue, especially when passions become heated, can seem like an attack on someone's personal beliefs because their political views are, in-part, a reflection of their identity.  


So how then can you have a civil political discussion or debate?


First, know your audience.  Ask yourself if the political conversation you are about to engage in will positively or negatively affect your future interactions with this person. Does this person want to have a genuine give-and-take conversation or are they just interested in speaking their mind?  What can you learn from this discussion and what benefit does it present? Political discussions can afford great value for various reasons but, if you are unsure, best to change the subject.


Second, in a discussion or debate, maintain your composure and show respect. Once a person loses their calm and begins shouting, the debate is over and they have lost. That especially goes for insults. The more someone yells, the more the other person will double down on their beliefs and tune out what is being said. Simply put: You cannot holler or insult your way into changing someone else's opinion. Listen as much as you speak to best understand their perspective and when you speak, be firm, strong, articulate, and respectful. 


Third, know what you know and know what you don't know. Speak from firsthand experience and stick to facts from reputable, verifiable sources. Do not use baseless speculation or spread opinions from a position of ignorance. If you conjecture based on unconfirmed opinions or regurgitated lies, it will destroy your credibility.   

Fourth, know when to walk away. A political conversation or debate has to end at some point and I believe the best way to end a discussion is by showing a "tip of the cap" or a sign of respect to the person you've engaged in this dialogue. End with something positive that shows the person that you respect them even if you don't agree with their views. Doing so shows class, dignity, and character.  

Maybe you will learn something and maybe you will inform someone but, that can only happen when everyone involved feels as if they are being respectfully heard and are equally participating. Believe it or not, despite what is so prevalently shown today, vigorous discussion and political debate is healthy and can lead to collaboration, compromise, and is essential to a strong, healthy Democracy. Remember to respect others as you would like to be respected. 

I love you both so much and I hope this helps if you need it.