The 2020 presidential election is finally over, but that does not put an end to the endless political debate; on the contrary, too often such conversations will take place in the following days:
Imagine someone, for example, a friend or a family member, unexpectedly starts to talk politics at the dinner table. Pretty awkward, isn’t it? And even worse when you find yourselves on opposite sides of a huge ideological gap.
What should we do then? Should we just keep quiet, or is there a way to approach each other in a civilized and constructive manner?
Sure there is. Here are three things to keep in mind to avoid a messy confrontation, and more importantly, to establish mutual understandings.
Sometimes it’s not the talking that matters, but listening
To talk about politics, first we need to know why we should talk about politics.
As is widely accepted, a government is, after all, not supposed to represent any particular group — not even the majority — but all persons in the country.
Any well-educated American would agree this is no easy task. That’s why we have to be truly engaged with each other and be fully aware of our differences.
Only with the full scope of information necessary can we, together, make an informed solution possible, and the most polarized voices united.
This is what democracy is all about. And this is what a fruitful discussion ought to be about — listening.
There is a common ground beneath all the differences
Being a good listener means to ask questions and truly understand the response. The preceding holds true in all circumstances, and politics shall be no exception.
Specifically speaking, repeating back what you think you’ve heard, and asking questions to clarify, might be helpful techniques that minimize misunderstanding, which is incredibly important, especially for such a sensitive topic.
To take this a step further, we may try to acknowledge the position of that other person top of mind, looking and really striving for opportunities to share and find the common ground.
Paradoxically enough, one of the most effective way to do this may be learning about the fundamental value differences between seemingly opposing ideologies.
“It really enables us to better understand and empathize with one another,” suggested Nina Silander, a clinical psychologist from Florida.
“And we can start to see that maybe we often share concerns that are more similar in nature than we would have thought, even if we disagree with what solutions to those concerns would look like.”
Your self-defense mechanism may be poisonous, literally and figuratively
It’s only natural to experience an emotional flare-up when a threat is perceived — that’s how our bodies are designed. (This is also where most of the personal abuse takes place, though.) But do you know such reactions to politics can actually do harm to your health?
A recent research shows that the hospitalization rate for heart attack and stroke in a major California health system was 1.62 times higher in the 2 days after the 2016 presidential election compared to the rate in the same 2 days the week prior.
This should remind us of how stress linked to political life can directly affect our health.
Nevertheless, it’s possible to prevent this self-defense mechanism from causing further damage, either to your health or to your personal relationships.
Traditional ways such as deep breathing would be an effective choice. Also, we can calm ourselves by noticing a specific feeling of, say, the chair beneath us, for example.
Besides, it’s not wise to have these serious talks after a long, hard day, or when people have been drinking. Always make sure you’re as emotionally in control as you’d like to be.
The election is over, but life continues. We should keep looking for ways of listening and connecting, for staying united is the only way we grow stronger.