Three Ways to Keep The Political Conversation Sane with Families and Friends

Posted by Jolene Barto on

In case you didn’t know, we’re going through an election year (as if 2020 wasn’t crazy enough). And it’s a season that many of us dread the most, if only because we have to navigate those "super fun" political conversations with our families and friends.

If you are like mine or any other American family, we don't all agree. And usually things get… awkward. 

Uncomfortable I Think You're Wrong But I'm Listening


If you’re dreading the national pastime and trying to figure out how to best discuss important things without starting a small war, I would highly suggest reading Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth A. Silvers’ I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening).

The authors come from different sides of the political spectrum, but they are besties, and really passionate about discussing politics (and all the other important things in life with each other).

They believe, firmly, that discussing politics can actually bring us together - not apart - if done right. They say the way politics is often handled doesn't accomplish that however:

We sorted ourselves, engaging only with those who were on our side. We also sorted others—based solely on assumptions about their hardened opinions. In the process, we subconsciously and constantly increased the stakes in believing that our personal perspectives are accurate and morally superior. Today, if and when we do enter a discussion with someone from the other side, we’re ready for battle, not dialogue. The rule that was supposed to prevent others’ discomfort has become a weapon to protect us from our own. Somehow, a concern about others’ feelings has morphed into an obsession with clinging to our talking points, as though those talking points form the very basis of who we are and what we stand for. We don’t want to be challenged or even questioned, because we believe there is too much at stake. We have tied together our religious beliefs, our pride in our upbringings, and our policy positions until they’ve become like a tangled mess of necklaces that we shove in a drawer—still treasured but unwearable. And over time we have lost the ability to sort out why we believe what we believe about our neighbors and perhaps even about ourselves. Approval ratings for politicians in both parties have bottomed out, and our faith in public and private institutions is at an all-time low. It’s no wonder that protests turn violent so regularly that we hardly notice. These were once the spaces—from political parties to pews to protests—where we worked out our disagreements, or at least got comfortable hearing opposing opinions. We’ve stopped practicing good conversations. We’ve disconnected from one another.

So, in order to stop political convos from being combative, here's a couple helpful tips from I Think You're Wrong (But I'm Listening):

1. Stop trying to win.

The mentality that you have to come out of a political conversation with a sort of sports-like victory is what gets things heated. Of course, there are real things and issues at stake when we talk politics, but if we go in with a mentality that our side has to win no matter what, we’ll never learn to understand and ask important questions of the other side. Instead of the conversation guiding us to work towards common goals, we’re simply trying to outdo each other – this is anything but productive.

2. We are not our politics.

Once we start equating our identities strictly with our chosen political allegiance, we start vilifying the other side. We need to remember to step back and realize we’re so much bigger than political parties and policies: even if your Uncle doesn’t love who you voted for, you both love watching that one movie and going hiking and playing driveway basketball. And we can always help and love each other outside of politics. Taking a batch of cookies over to your BFF when they’re having a rough week has NOTHING to do with politics (and thank goodness, because COOKIES amiright?)

Basically, don’t forget that most of what makes us humans? Has nothing to do with politics. Never lose sight of that.

3. Be nice.

The way that the authors of I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening) put this is that we should “show grace”:

We don’t have to accept the unacceptable in order to maintain our grace. Grace simply means that all people are valuable. People matter. 

Basically, remember that we all have feelings, and feelings can get hurt. If we don’t lose sight of that, we’ll learn even if we don’t agree (and showing grace doesn’t mean you have to acquiesce to another person’s opinions just to make them happy), we can still be respectful of each other as fellow humans who are just trying 👏 our 👏 best.

So that next time someone casually asks you “who you voted for” you can possibly rest a little easier knowing that you have some tools to guide that conversation to semi-sane levels.

Want to start listening to I Think You're Wrong (But I'm Listening)? Just click play to start listening to the audiobook: 


Want to listen check out our other blog posts? View the newest blog posts here!


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