Step 1: Set Reasonable Expectations for the Discussion
Politics can be such a loaded topic because it feels like the stakes are high. Unlike your neighbor’s fervent position on children going to nice restaurants, their political views actually have the potential to affect your life. As a result, it is natural to think that you need to persuade them to agree with you. While this is an admirable goal, it can be difficult to achieve. When you approach a political discussion, set reasonable expectations for the conclusion. If you go in expecting to have an interesting conversation and maybe learn something new, you are less likely to get overwhelmed or start drawing lines in the sand.
It’s OK to disagree or even get upset. However, it is not OK to wish people were dead in a fashion worthy of “Game of Thrones.”
With this year’s election season, you are likely to find a lot of disagreement, even among people who both follow Bernie Sanders’ Dank Meme Stash. This means that you might end up in a conflict when you expected to find only agreement. Differences of opinion are perfectly normal and healthy to have in conversation. However, once you feel the heat rising, asking questions is an excellent way to cool things down. Think of open-ended topics, such as, “Why do you think this particular issue is the most important in the election?” Listen carefully, and look for opportunities to find common ground.
Step 3: Avoid the Blame Game
The most important key to handling conflict in political arguments is to avoid losing control, and to recognize when others do. It’s OK to disagree or even get upset. However, it is not OK to wish people were dead in a fashion worthy of “Game of Thrones.” Neither side should use the conversation as a battering ram or blame the other person for holding their views. While you might not expect to hear, “I am voting for them because you suck,” in polite conversation, you can find such phrases all over social media. When the argument turns to finger-pointing, plan to disengage, so that you are not tempted to reciprocate.
As a conversation topic, politics has a higher likelihood of turning into an angry debate. However, political discussions can be totally enjoyable. If you go into it with reasonable expectations, plan to find understanding in the midst of conflict and avoid pointing fingers at others, you will still be friends at the end of the discussion.