It is possible to carry on a conversation where the topic is something you do not agree on. At Thanksgiving and Christmas, we avoid talking about politics, religion, and anything that has been in the news in the last 6 months. Stick to safe subjects. How sad is it that we have to avoid certain important topics of conversation with those who are closest to us all because we are unable to hold a civil conversation with people who hold differing opinions?
My dad and I talk politics all the time. My parents and my sister come to ask me about certain topics because they know I will have something different to say. I am the world’s biggest political contradiction. Raised southern baptist in a deep red state, figured out I was gay and got fed up with a lot of the system. Believe in things like gun rights, abortion rights, black lives matter, no vaccines, and hands-off government. Very mixed soup. So our political discussions are often interesting.
Dad is a true and true republican. Southern Christian who thinks the system works for everyone and that voting is how you make changes. He has held the same job for the last 40 years and thinks America is still a shining example of the best country in the world. So how and why do we talk politics on a regular basis? Because we are both aware that the other has a different view and we want to hear it. Exposing yourself to other ideas is how you see cracks in your own.
Let me preface this by saying our talks aren’t always perfect and sometimes we totally get a little heated. But most of the time our talks stay passionate but polite. They get loud but not angry. And they finish with us still being able to sit together and have dinner with no weird air between us. Here is how we manage that after years of making it work.
It Is Not An Argument, It Is A Debate
In an argument, you are trying to go against the person you are talking to. In a debate, you are trying to convince some third party that your position is the right one. You know nothing about this 3rd party, they could already lean your way or they could lean the other way. Your job is to make your case the best you can. Focus on presenting your ideas in a logical manner, in a way that makes sense, and not using overly emotional arguments.
This Is Not About Forcing A Change In Opinion
Go into this knowing that you are not trying to get the other party to change their mind. Are you willing to change your stance on the matter? Probably not. They are most likely not going to either. Don’t attempt to sway their opinion. Instead, attempt to make them aware of other ways of seeing the issue. The key is to make them think differently even if it is just about a single specific scenario. Broaden their thinking and be willing to do the same. Listen to what they are saying and try and see it from their side. This type of conversation only works when it is two-sided.
Do Not Attack The Person
This is about the issue. Not the person you are having the talk with. Now is not the time to bring up how your dad missed your dance recital or how uncle Leo still owes you gas money. Those facts have no bearing on the discussion taking place and are just a means to deflect. If you cannot support your stance without resorting to attacking the person questioning you, you need to think more about your beliefs and why you hold them.
Try and frame things as questions with genuine curiosity. Ask why something is this way. Ask why they believe this. Ask if they have ever tried something. Be open to the answers. Realize that it is quite possible for someone to have information you don’t which could lead to an opinion that contradicts yours.
Admit When They Make A Good Point
If something they bring up resonates with you, let them know. Take a minute to ponder it and try and fit it into your stance on the issue. Show that you aren’t so emotionally stuck on a particular side that you are blinded to new information or other viewpoints. Own up if they see something you haven’t that means you need to reconsider part or all of your own thinking.
The biggest problem in most of the disagreements we have is that those on Side A have never been on Side B so they haven’t experienced the issue from there. It isn’t about being vindictive or deliberately choosing something different. Often they simply can’t relate because they have never seen it from that side.
My dad couldn’t grasp the whole LGBT marriage law thing. He isn’t gay and was stuck on a marriage is between a man and a woman. I had to bring up that we were wanting marriage benefits, not religious ones. I explained I wouldn’t be able to see my future (hopefully one day I’ll get there) wife in the hospital or be on her health insurance. I pointed out that we were not trying to get religious rights within the church to marry. We wanted the state to recognize us as a married couple with the legal benefits that came with it. He wasn’t being mean on purpose and trying to deny us rights. He was sticking to his belief in Christianity. He did not understand that we weren’t attacking the church but asking for the state to notice us. (If the church and state have been melded together that is not really my fault. )
This education lesson did not change his mind on the matter. But it did make him way more understanding about it. That is all I needed. If using an example about my future can cause him to pause and think, it is well worth it. Use examples in your debates but make sure they are realistic and not too much of an edge case.
The fact that we cannot discuss things civilly with each other is a sad fact and points to our poor communication skills and inability to control our emotions. You should be able to be challenged on your views without exploding and you should be able to point out flaws in others’ thinking without attacking the individual. Learn to have debates, not arguments. And don’t take political debates as a model. Those politicians need to learn this too.
Thanks for reading Y’all