In today’s controversial political climate, discussions can be a tad tricky to navigate. On the one hand, people want to bring awareness to various issues and vent about their frustrations. However, once the line is crossed, once a “friendly debate” turns into a downright spiral — insults and all — relationships can be strained, to say the least.
I’ve seen family members bicker to the point where voices are raised and feelings are hurt. I’ve seen awful rhetoric on Facebook that results in broken friendships and blocked users.
And I know there’s passion behind beliefs and ideas, but I can’t help but think that this passion can be expressed in a more productive and effective way. (Especially online, where tone can’t be deciphered and facial expressions, along with other nonverbal cues, are absent.)
And here’s the thing: if the relationship truly can’t be the same after a political discussion, I suppose that’s for the two parties to decide on their own. That’s their prerogative. However, effective communication can actually help relay thoughts, feelings and perspectives without someone hurling zingers about someone’s character — without someone ending up in tears.
I conjured up three big communication tips that could help preserve the peace in tense political discussions.
Alternate viewpoints will most likely be expressed in political conversations and other perspectives will be shared. Staying open-minded, even if you still stand by your point, can only be beneficial in this kind of conversation. Instead of completely shutting the other person down, listen to their thoughts and hear what they have to say.
This suggestion may seem fairly obvious; we are taught at a young age to be respectful to our peers. However, I know it’s sometimes difficult to reign in intense emotions, especially if you’re adamant about a particular subject matter.
Once impulsivity ignites and strong emotions continue to unravel, further and further, ugly remarks and personal insults can certainly ensue. Now this is what can truly end friendships and push people away, depending on the closeness of the bond (it’s probably easier to work out issues with those we have a genuine close or deep connection with). And even if the harsh words said are said out of anger, with no sincere meaning behind it, the exchange will still become hostile and messy to endure.
When respect shines forth, the conversation can be upheld in a more positive light.
I think vulnerability is key when it comes to conversations of a sensitive nature. If you convey your feelings openly and honestly and allow yourself to be vulnerable with the other person, they will most likely have a greater understanding of where you’re coming from — even if they don’t share the same opinion. Sharing personal experiences with one another can also help foster understanding as well.
Clarify, Clarify, Clarify
Whether, you’re in the midst of a tense conversation or not, misunderstandings are so commonplace. But when you find yourself in a difficult conversation and your emotional state is already heightened, misunderstandings may stray the conversation into unnecessary territory and incite additional frustrations.
By clarifying and reiterating your point, misinterpretations of what’s truly being said can be thwarted. This Oprah.com article, which features insight from CNN commentators Margaret Hoover and John Avlon, relays some advice regarding how to express certain sentiments to avoid misunderstandings:
Paraphrase what the other person has just said to make sure you understand and that she feels heard. Don’t go further by suggesting implications of her view: “So you’re saying you wish Trump wouldn’t tweet so much, but he’s there to shake things up in Washington.”
Not…”So you’re saying the character of the president doesn’t matter.”
Ask questions to clarify, not to provoke “How did you come to believe that moving toward single-payer healthcare is best?”
Not…”How can you defend something as messed up as Obamacare?”
In these controversial political times, conversations may spark between individuals online or in person; these conversations can be between loved ones, friends, or acquaintances, but regardless of the relation, feelings are always at stake. By communicating effectively and encompassing an open-minded mentality, respect, vulnerability, and an inquisitive nature (for clarification), such discussions don’t have to strain relationships and result in hurt feelings.