With the political season fully underway, learn how to speak your mind without losing all your friends.  

By Henry Adeleye on August 14, 2015 

the collaboratory

the collaboratory

With the first presidential debate last week, the political season is officially underway. This means you'll be flooded with political talk everywhere you go. People at work, people on social media, and even people sitting in the stall next to you who violate all bathroom etiquette rules will try to engage you in some small talk about politics, and will say you hate America if you dare disagree with them. Normally, you'd just avoid the topic altogether rather than risk the ensuing turmoil that political discussions bring. But running scared never solved anything. Besides, politics are very important and you don't seem like the type of person who wants people to make the wrong choices. So alas, follow these simple rules to ensure you can safely discuss politics without making people hate you; or worse, you hate them.  

 

Think about why you want to discuss politics. 

Any discussion should seek to enlighten all parties involved. However, a lot of people seek discussion on certain topics as more of a reinforcement of their own beliefs than as a learning experience. If you're one of those people, only have political discussions with your dog. Or a wall. Whichever is closer and hurts more.  

 

Pick someone not in your preferred party to root for. 

Believe it or not, no one political party has all the right answers. And with a growing number of independents, most people's political beliefs probably fall somewhere between the two major parties. With that being said, if you want to truly have an open political debate, pick someone in a different party than you normally vote for as your second choice and root for them. Discover all you can about them. Buy a bumper sticker. That way, you'll learn a lot more about their party and will be able to have a more informed discussion. This isn't just limited to D's and R's. Maybe you like someone in the Green Party, or even someone in the Surprise Party. Yes, that's a real party 

 

Realize that you can entertain a thought without accepting it. 

This is from one of Aristotle's many quotes. And he was a smart person, so I'd take him seriously. In debates, you're not always going to agree with someone 100%. But that doesn't mean you can't engage in a good discussion to hear opinions different from your own. Maybe you'll realize you were right all along, or maybe you'll face reality. 

 

Realize you can accept a thought that's different than what you've been believing your whole life. 

The good thing about talking with other humans is that you may learn that you've been wrong about some things your whole life. Once upon a time, people thought the world was flat and artists wrote their own lyrics. There's no reason to think your mind can't be changed. You are what you are fed. And it's never too late to change your diet.  

 

Use facts, not emotions. 

Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts. Use facts from neutral sources (i.e. not MSNBC or Fox News) when debating. Leave the emotion out of the debate. It's a hard thing to do, but you'll save yourself a lot of heartache if you can learn to do this.  

 

Don't use inflammatory language. 

If you want to see an argument escalate quickly, call someone stupid. If you want to make people hate you, call them derogatory names for disagreeing with you. There's a prevalent philosophy that says, "I'm a smart person and I believe X. He or she believes Y. Therefore, he or she is a moron." Avoid this thinking if you want to have a healthy discussion. About anything.  

 

Don't talk over the other person. 

Wait until they get their point out before you interrupt them. Then expect the same when it's time for you to get yours across. Of course there are times when you're dealing with someone who won't let you get a word in. In that case, just start acting like you're asleep. Snore loudly. They'll get the picture sooner or later. 

 

When the other person says something you disagree with, ask what made them feel that way. 

You'll learn a lot about a person if you can learn the "why" about them. Even if your mind isn't ultimately changed, you can at least get a better perspective of their viewpoint. Maybe you can empathize with them. That's a start. 

 

Concede at least one point. 

You're not always right. Think about at least one thing said during the discussion that you were wrong about. Now admit it. Again, debates are meant to enlighten. It's a powerful thing to get a new perspective on a topic.  

 

When all else fails, slowly and silently start walking away. 

When you get far enough away, take off running. Some people just can't have a healthy debate. Stay far away from them.