Religion and politics. The two things we are taught to avoid talking about at all costs. Yet how sad it is that we are to avoid talking about what makes us feel most passionate. Because passion is what drives us to live a meaningful life. Right? Which is why its so hard to keep our passion contained.
And is it right? Is it right to have to hold in what we believe in so strongly to ourselves?
I would argue no. So I do talk about religion. Even though it’s a no, no. Because Jesus is the best part of my life. And it’s inauthentic to myself to act like He isn’t. But I don’t expect everyone to understand my experience or believe what I believe. Nor do I need them to believe what I believe in order to keep living out my faith.
However, if someone asks me, I am more than willing to share about my faith because I want to share the best part of me. But I am more than willing to hear from someone about why they agree or disagree with what I believe. And that doesn’t scare me. Or make me think they’re bad.
Because I believe informed people not only care about what they believe, but what compels others to believe what they do even if it’s different from their thinking. Which is why I believe there is really only one effective way to have a political conversation with someone with opposing views that doesn’t end up in a feud. Are you able to keep the mindset: “I’m not interested in fighting about politics, but I’m interested in you.”
If I’m unwilling to consider that on many issues, there can be more than one logical way to look at that issue, I’m being illogical. After all, was it the chicken or the egg that came first? Is the glass half full or half empty? Two people can believe the same result is produced two different ways. It’s human nature.
But if we don’t talk, how can we ever learn, grow or change?
Dialogue has to remain open. But dialogue. Not feuding. I never want to come to a point in my life where I’m unwilling to consider new ideas and growth. I want my children to feel comfortable to talk with me about their beliefs when they think I would both agree or disagree with them. And that’s exactly how I feel about politics.
So here are 5 of my favorite ways to talk about politics without losing it in the process.
Step 1: Go into the conversation understanding that the majority of people are uninterested in changing their opinion. Instead, look at the conversation as dialogue and a way of learning.
If you truly believe that there is a good chance you will change someone’s opinion in politics through one conversation, you should likely reconsider if a conversation is worth your time. Because most people don’t talk politics to change their opinion, they are hoping to change yours. So it is more helpful to keep the mindset, “I want you to understand what has led me to believe what I do” instead of “This is what you should believe.” And yes, some people can change, but it is a small percentage.
Step 2: Be willing to take a walk in someone else’s shoes. Not just your own. There is a reason they believe what they believe.
If you truly want someone to walk in your shoes, you better be willing to walk in theirs. And that only happens by listening. And not listening so that you are ready to argue your next point, but listening because you really want to be able to say you understand why they believe what they believe. If you can tell a person, “I understand this…. is what caused you to believe this….” you are doing yourself a favor. Empathy goes a long way. And makes them more willing to listen to you.
Step 3: Be open to examining your own biases.
If you think you are not clouded by bias, a political conversation may be ineffective for you. Because no matter how smart and informed you are, you have some level of bias. And if you can’t acknowledge that you have one, how can you expect the person on the other side of the table, phone, Facebook convo (which should probably be avoided) to acknowledge they have one too? You are biased. Maybe a little. Maybe a lot. But either way, you are. And so am I. We’re human.
Step 4: Be informed on BOTH sides of the fence. Do your research.
One soundbite, headline or blog on Facebook should not be what you base your passion on for being an informed citizen. If you truly want to have a chance to be productive in political conversations, you have to know the issues you believe in and know them well. And not just in the way that you believe, but you have to take time to read about the issue from the other side in a way that you aren’t looking for arguments, but in a way that you are pretending you might be open to understanding their viewpoint.
Step 5: Fighting and yelling DOES not make someone change their mind. It hurts your cause. Focus on facts, not emotion.
The first way to ruin your chance of having an effective conversation is to name call. Or yell. It immediately takes the focus from knowledge to emotion. Even if your point is completely irrefutable, if I am yelling at you while I tell you, it makes me lose credibility. When you feel emotions rising, take a breather. The anger turns off someone’s willingness to listen. Or ability it they are the one yelling.
Step 6: Keep communicating.
I want everyone to know the God that I have come to know, but I understand that some will never believe in his existence. But that will never stop me from telling others about how amazing He is to me. Because I trust that at the right time, the right person will peaceably hear exactly what they need from me. And you should too about your beliefs. America is beautiful because we are different. In skin color. Experience. Belief. We don’t want to fight. But we don’t want to shut down either.