Midterms are coming, not the academic kind, but the political kind. With them will inevitably come the spiraling descent of rival political discussions. More often than not, the people closest to us are the ones invoking these political discussions. If you are lucky, you’ll both agree. If you are not, what can start as a friendly exchange of ideas can quickly turn into a sour debate that leaves a bitter taste in your mouths.
Here are some tips on how to engage in political discussions with friends and family members who are on the opposing side as you.
PHOTO COURTESY OF TDS BUSINESS
Change the Subject
This one is a little more obvious, but if you are not in the mood to fight with people who you are close with, the remedy might just be to change the subject. Your friendship, relationship, or familial bond will remain stronger sometimes if you go your separate ways on a topic.
Accept that You Won’t Change Them
This is a big one. So, changing the subject did not work, and now it is time for some restraint on your part. Whatever the topic is, odds are you will not change their opinion on it over one conversation. Listen to their points respectfully and respond in as calm a manner as possible that seeks not to assail their point of view, but merely give voice to your own.
Oftentimes, when political discussions become heated, it is because there is an excess of opinions and a lack of willingness to hear one another. Ask the other person a question that provokes thought on why they think the way they do. Ask about how they came to their conclusions, what would it mean if they saw it another way. Conversations become a lot less contentious when questions are constantly fuelling the discourse.
Keep Your Mind Open
If you are hoping that the other party in the discussion will listen to you, then you should be listening to them, really listening. Not only is this important in just being a human being, but it is beneficial to understand what people on the other side of the aisle are saying about your movement. Are any of these grievances valuable? Do you think that there is room in your own values for growth?
Know When They Need to Vent
Sometimes, the conversation is not even about the nuances of a political topic. There are innumerable reasons why this person could be coming to you with this discussion. Something could have happened in the classroom or at work which has them thinking. When a person needs to vent, they are in no mood to hear what you have to say, and the best job that can be done is just to listen respectfully.
You are Not the Entirety of Your Movement
I am not the only one responsible for ending Palestinian Apartheid. I am not the only one responsible for making our economy a more fair system for everyone. I am not the only one responsible for creating better voting practices. I am a part of a greater movement, and so are you. Because you are not skilled in debate, does not mean you are any less valuable to your movement. If your friend, family member, or co-worker walks away from the conversation not being any more sympathetic to your cause, it does not mean you failed as an ally to your movement.
Andrew is a sophomore International Relations and English double-major.