I believe there are two types of people in this world–people who love a good debate, and people who would rather set their fingertips on fire than engage in any sort of disagreement, even if it’s presumably respectful and among friends. I tend to be the latter, though I’m trying to own my opinions more. But nothing sets off the latter type like election season. Even if you ostensibly agree with a loved one on which candidate to support, your reasons for support may differ and lead into a whole thing.
However, even though I hate arguing, I don’t necessarily agree with the old adage about never discussing religion or politics at dinner. These are big parts of our lives and should be discussed, but as always, respectfully. So here are some tips on surviving election season, which seems to last forever now.
- You will likely not change anyone’s mind. Unfortunately, studies have proved that even in the presence of facts, a lot of people will not change their minds about pressing political issues. Many truths can exist at the same time, contradictory to each other. So yelling in someone’s Facebook feed that they’re stupid if they think everyone should have guns (or, similarly, that they’re stupid if they think no one should have guns) is just going to make everyone mad. If you’re dead set on trying to change minds, focus on why you believe what you believe, not why they shouldn’t believe what they do.
- Not everyone debates like you. As I said above there are two types of people, and problems start when they get into political conversations with each other. I have left conversations in tears, confusing friends who thought we were just having a rowdy, friendly debate. Try to read the crowd. If you’re the type who hates arguing and senses the person you’re talking to really wants to go a round, try to excuse yourself. If you love to debate, watch for hesitance in whoever you’re talking to, and back off if you see they’re getting upset.
- It’s okay to call out people when they’re really wrong. Okay, the idea of an objective truth may be murky, but there are times when people are flat out spewing lies. You should absolutely call someone out who is being prejudiced, offensive or otherwise wrong. Just make sure that it remains a rebuttal to what they said, not their character. “No, abortion doesn’t cause breast cancer” is much different than “You’re stupid if you’re anti-abortion.”
- Keep the conversation to a minimum. While I think talking about politics is fine, too much can get exhausting, and also up your chances of actually getting into a fight with someone. Touch on the subject when you must, but try to change the topic so you don’t get into an hours long conversation about foreign policy.
- Why not do something? The thing that bothers me the most about lengthy political debates is that they often take the form of people complaining without action. And politics have a way of making us feel helpless. But if an issue is bothering you so much that you’re bringing it up at every party, try seeing if there’s something else you can do about it. Otherwise, surprise! You may be one of those people who talks about politics just to sound smart! Nobody likes those people.