I have to say, I’m nervous to title this, “How to Talk About Politics without Being a Jerk.”
Sometimes it feels like using the word ‘politics’ at all nowadays means you’re plastering a sign on your forehead that says, “Fight me.”
There are many people in my life who have told me I need to stay away from politics. I shouldn’t talk about that topic at all to my audience….it’s too touchy…I’ll just be “asking for it” if I bring it up.
And honestly, that’s kinda my point exactly.
Politics is one area of life right now that is lacking in kindness so much it literally makes my heart ache. I’m doing something wrong with my ever-so-awesome-kindness-coaching-business if I DIDN’T talk about it. It’s my job to infuse more kindness into the world, so who am I to walk away from such a topic?
I will say, though, it’s scary to write this. In the back of my mind, I’m kinda prepping myself to get all sorts of internet haters from doing it. But I have to get over my fear. The world deserves that much, I think.
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Let’s Chat About This
I currently live in the U.S. When it comes to politics (I mean, frankly, when it comes to a lot of things, but…) this is a very scary place to live in. Truthfully, I think if you’re living in the U.S. and you’re NOT afraid of where this country is headed, you are turning a blind eye to the obvious.
But that’s a story for another time.
I won’t pretend to know anything about other countries’ political situations as of writing this. So just know that I’m writing this from the perspective of an American, and my experience in dealing with American politics.
I think what finally spurred me to write this, oddly enough, is Facebook…of all things. I think that Facebook has turned into a breeding ground of hate, negativity, and political arguments, and it royally sucks ass.
The only reason I really have Facebook is because I have a lot of long distance family and friends. Facebook is a good way to easily and quickly keep in touch with them, and I like that. But honestly, if it weren’t for them, my account would have been deleted a long time ago.
Every single time I look at Facebook, I get upset by something. And it almost always has to do with politics.
And I’m not talking about me getting upset because of someone posting something that disagrees with my point of view….I’m talking about the fact that I’m witnessing every 5 seconds someone be a freaking dick because of politics.
It breaks my heart. It makes my blood boil knowing that politics has seeped so far into the blood of people that they’ve forgotten what it means to treat someone else with kindness. And a lot of it over a screen, which makes it 10x worse.
So essentially….I just can’t take it anymore. I’m so fed up with getting so angry from an app simply because I’m trying to stay connected with my loved ones. And I know that I have no control over other people. But I think saying something about this situation can maybe start to change things for the better.
Let’s Establish the Solution that I’m NOT Offering
I want to emphasize something, simply because I know that at least someone out there is thinking about it.
I do NOT think that the solution to this problem is to get rid of political discussion on social media (or even in real life.)
Overall, I think it’s important to talk about politics, be open with those discussions, and have real conversations about it. Getting rid of it entirely is not something that I think will work. Most often, trying to fix a problem by going the entire opposite way doesn’t really provide benefits.
We live in a world where we HAVE to talk politics. And I’m okay with that. The point is that we all need to learn how to talk about politics in a much DIFFERENT, HEALTHIER way.
There’s no feasible way to eliminate the chatter. It’s a very necessary part of today’s society. But the current methods of that chatter don’t have to be set in stone. They can be shifted, morphed, and changed.
Frankly, they need to be. Otherwise we’re going to have more problems arise at a faster rate than we can possibly hope to solve them.
I have four main things that you and I and everyone else can all do today to ensure that political discussions start functioning in a healthier manner. This way, we can all understand how to talk about politics without being a jerk.
Learn to Respect People with Different Opinions
Allow me to say two things right off the bat, here:
- Respecting someone’s opinion does not mean that you are agreeing with it.
- Respecting someone’s opinion and respecting someone as a whole are two very different things.
I think people get weird when they hear “respect other opinions.” They get nervous that that means they have to give up what they believe or what their opinions are. They get defensive about respecting someone’s opinion because they don’t respect the person who has it.
These are all different things, fam. Trust me, it takes a LOT to get me to respect someone entirely. There are many people who don’t have my respect. But that doesn’t mean I have to be a jerk to them, and that definitely doesn’t mean that I don’t respect their opinions (i.e. our differences.)
On top of that, you don’t have to agree with someone in order to respect that their opinion is different from yours.
For example, my favorite color is orange. But I have respect for the opinion that other people’s favorite color is blue. I think blue sucks, lol. And if I didn’t respect that opinion, I’d be having a LOT of fights with my boyfriend, who’s favorite color is blue. And he respects that my favorite color is orange!
(Our entire bathroom is orange, and I’m convinced the rest of our apartment is blue. But we’re cool about it. It’s fine. Although I am weaving more orange into the place…he just doesn’t know it, yet.)
My point is that if you can learn to respect people who have different political opinions from yourself, then the discussions you have will automatically be infused with a lot more kindness.
A major reason why political arguments pop up is because one person gets so caught up in why they’re right that they forget that people are allowed to be different from them.
If you can take just three seconds of time to look at someone who has a differing opinion from you and think, “You know what, it’s cool. We’re different. I respect that! And that doesn’t mean we have to argue. We can discuss these different sides and it can be a constructive, intelligent, interesting conversation. And maybe we can even come to agreements along the way.”
Having respect for someone else and their opinions means you are allowing space in your mind for their side of things to exist, and you’re eliminating the “I’m right, you’re wrong” factor. That’s an awesome thing!
And something else to think about: simply saying you respect someone else’s opinion and ACTUALLY respecting someone else’s opinion are two different things. Make sure you check yourself.
Walk Away From Someone Who Wants to Turn It into a Fight
Remember what I said earlier about not being able to control other people? That applies GREATLY here.
I don’t actually talk politics very often. And it’s simply because too many people in the world want to turn a simple discussion into an argument. Personally, I don’t have space in my life for pointless arguments. That shit gotta go.
It took me a while to realize that as much as I just want to have constructive conversation, I can’t control what other people want out of that same discussion. If they just want to fight about why they’re right and I’m wrong or whatever the situation is, there isn’t a damn thing I can do about it.
In a lot of ways, that sucks. (Don’t we all wish we could control other people?) But that’s something you have to learn to deal with.
If you’re reading this and you’re like, “Yes, Sierra, I agree with you. I want to have better political conversations,” but the other person you’re talking to doesn’t have the same mindset? You gotta walk away, honeybun.
Because the only thing you’re going to do by continuing a conversation with someone who’s turning it into an argument is add fuel to the fire. And that doesn’t help anyone!
You make a statement by telling someone who’s getting argumentative that you’re going to walk away and/or not have that discussion. There’s definitely power in doing that.
You’re not giving someone else a chance to be a jerk about politics. And you’re eliminating that stress from your life. Really, it’s a win-win for everyone.
Ahhh, empathy. The one thing the world needs more of and yet is seriously lacking in.
Let me ask you: do you think of yourself as empathetic? Do you think empathy is a gift that other people have and others don’t? How often do you *actually* live your life and interact with others using empathy as a base?
There is no right or wrong answer to the first question. If you said yes to the second question, I believe that you’d be incorrect. (I’m actually reading a book right now called Unselfie by Michelle Borba that talks about developing the skill of empathy. Technically, she’s talking about it with kids, but I think it can be applied to anyone of any age.) And the third question is one I just want you to genuinely think about.
If we ALL used more empathy in our daily lives AND with the discussion of politics, we would be living in a much much better place.
And in the case of political conversations, there are two major benefits of practicing empathy.
- You can see where someone else is coming from when they share their perspectives, rather than just thinking they’re wrong because their opinion is different from yours.
- You can use the knowledge you gain from practicing empathy to further shape your own political opinions.
I think so many people get so caught up in their “side” of political discussions that they forget that, at the end of the day, they’re talking to another person. Who ALSO has feelings, thoughts, and emotions, just like you!
If you used more empathy and had both the results listed above, you can just imagine what kind of benefit that would have!
Seeing where someone else is coming from and why they think the way they do is incredibly powerful. Giving yourself that opportunity to expand your own horizons only benefits you (and, in turn, everyone else around you.)
Instead of fighting with someone and trying to shove in their face why you’re more correct than they are, try to simply listen to where they’re coming from with their viewpoints.
When you can put yourself into the shoes of someone else, you gain understanding. Understanding leads to more respect…and then eventually you suddenly become a person who can discuss politics constructively without being a jerk.
And let me also reinforce the fact that practicing empathy doesn’t mean you have to change your mind about anything to fit another person’s perspective. It just means you’re allowing room to say, “I see where you’re coming from. It makes sense from your angle.”
Another side note: if you do practice empathy with a person and their perspective still doesn’t make sense, don’t make a fuss out of it. Sometimes you can’t relate to people, and that’s okay. That’s another opportunity to just walk away.
The good news is that maybe using empathy to see another person’s political perspective might shape your own further! I know this has happened to me personally, and honestly it’s a pretty good feeling.
It’s really easy to get caught up in the viewpoints you’re taught or have believed for years. Using empathy to grow and even change those views can be really beautiful. You never know what you might learn, or be able to change from using empathy in your political conversations!
Remember What Politics and Government Are Actually About
Believe it or not, but the point of politics and government isn’t actually to fight with people. SHOCKER, I know. (I get sassy about this sometimes…can you tell yet? Ha.)
At the end of the day, the government is about managing a country, a large group of people and trying to find solutions to things.
Government and politics weren’t created so that we can all stand around and yell at each other. Sometimes it really does feel that way (and that is ridiculously unfortunate) but they weren’t!
It can be really helpful to, when you find yourself getting involved in more of a fight about politics rather than just a chat, just take a deep breath and be like, “Hold up a second…what’s the actual point of this?”
I emphasize again that discussions around politics CAN be really healthy and constructive and awesome, but only when they’re designed that way intentionally.
Reminding yourself that getting into arguments about politics really isn’t the point just might be enough for you to realize that it isn’t worth it. People don’t do things unless they’re actually WORTH doing (but they have to realize the worth or lack thereof, first.)
Fighting with someone and being a jerk about politics never moves you or anyone else forward in any capacity. The point of government isn’t to fight about it. It IS a really big side effect of its existence, but it’s not actually the main point.
Remember that, and maybe even remind others around you of that, and you just might find your political discussions moving into a much better light.
There You Have It…How to Talk About Politics Without Being a Jerk
I really do believe in the power of good in the world, and right now politics is seriously lacking in goodness.
It’s really our job to infuse more of that goodness and eliminate the jerkiness. And it doesn’t have to be insanely hard. It just takes dedication and self-awareness!
I believe in you, boo boo.
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