Discussing politics can be incredibly frustrating. When someone has completely opposing views to yours, it’s easy to dig your heels in and turn a discussion into a full-blown argument. But what happens if it’s not a random person from high school, but one of your best friends that you disagree with? Read on for our tips on how to talk politics with friends without things getting out of hand.
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Don’t Make It Personal
This is so, so important. The person is your friend, after all! When you are in a heated argument, it often feels easy to resort to low blows. Most times your hurtful comments have nothing to do with the topic at hand. Try to focus on the issue you are discussing rather than the person you are discussing it with. In addition to not hurting anyone’s feelings, this helps you keep a more level head so you can think of smarter, more convincing arguments for your side.
Even if you think that they hold a view because they are naive, or not as smart as you, or anything like that, DO NOT SAY SO. At least, don’t say so if you want to keep your friendship. However, if the person is being outright sexist, racist, homophobic, or otherwise discriminatory, it is ok to speak up. These are problematic opinions and if you are offended by them, tell your friend so. They might not even realize it! If they still hold onto their beliefs that are hateful to an entire group of people, you may want to rethink your friendship with that person.
Want to learn more about how to talk politics without hurting your loved ones? Check out Crisis of Our House Divided: A Guide to Talking Politics Without the Noise by Thomas Krannawitter. This book is a quick, easy-to-read guide on how to talk politics with your loved ones calmly and quietly. No more shouting matches at the dinner table! Pick up your copy here.
While it is tempting to stew angrily or think about what you will say next, try to actively listen to your friend when it’s her turn to talk. She will appreciate your respect and will likely return the favor. This tactic also helps you form more thoughtful arguments because you’re actually responding to what your friend said, not just working from a mental script. Apply this to every conversation you have and you’ll be known as the most thoughtful listener in the group.
Another way to actively listen when you talk politics is to understand how your friend communicates. In The Three Languages of Politics: Talking Across the Political Divides, Arnold Kling explains that people with different political beliefs actually convey their opinions in different ways. Understanding the nuances of your pal’s argument might cool off your debate and help you see her in a new light. Grab a copy of the book here.
Consider Their Context
Everyone’s experience is not the same. Think about that before you bash your friend’s political views. An aspect of their past or present life that you have never dealt with might factor into their beliefs. For example, they may have grown up in a low-income home situation and relied on food stamps for their daily meals. Or perhaps their parents were teachers who wished for more government funding and they saw how much unpaid work they put in each week. While an issue may seem unimportant to you, it could be very close to your friend’s heart.
No matter how open we think we are, many of us tend to sort ourselves into friend groups based on our similarities. That’s why it can be hard to understand a friend’s context and, hence, political beliefs, when they are different from our own. These two amazing books address this phenomenon and how it affects our political system. Bill Bishop’s The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart analyzes how our self-sorting tendencies have really polarized our political opinions. In #Republic: Divided Democracy in the Age of Social Media by Cass R. Sunstein, the author discusses a similar effect, but on our little corners of the internet. Read these to help you branch out from your tiny part of the world! You can find these books here and here.
Know Your Stuff
There is nothing more embarrassing in an argument than saying something only to be proved wrong. How can you expect to win someone to your side if you don’t even know what you are talking about? Before jumping into a political discussion with someone who has opposite views, do your research. Watch the news, read the paper, keep up with current events, and know the names of politicians who are in the spotlight. A great place to start is the book Talking Politics? What You Need to Know Before Opening Your Mouth by Sheila Suess Kennedy. It clears up many areas of confusion surrounding the American political system and gives you a better basis on which to form arguments. You will feel more informed and sound much smarter in any political debate! Pick up your copy here.
The next time you talk politics with a loved one who does not share your opinions, try to keep your cool. Debating calmly, kindly, and well-informed makes you a great friend and an even better discussion partner! No matter how “woke” you are, learning to branch out and actually consider other people’s opinions without shouting at them is a lesson we can all benefit from. Follow our tips and you will get your point across without burning any bridges with family or friends.