How often do you find yourself talking about politics with others? If it’s hard to remember, you’re not alone. It’s often a topic many people tend to avoid at all costs, like religion. After all, who would want to subject themselves to their second cousin twice removed’s rant about the election?
But, surprisingly, it’s becoming less taboo and more widespread.
According to the Pew Research Center, more Americans are paying attention to politics since Donald Trump was elected president – especially women.
That doesn’t mean it’s necessarily civil conversations, though.
In the same study, 59% of people said it is “stressful and frustrating” talking about politics with people who differ in their opinion of Trump. Just slightly more than a third (35%) of respondents find political conversations “interesting and informative.”
This is in line with our recent survey that dove into a similar topic – whether or not people are losing friends over politics. Based on the polling trends of the raw results so far, most Americans agree that it is risky talking about politics with others.
The trends also show that slightly more than half have lost or even ended friendships due to disagreements when talking about politics.
It can be a challenge to be open and honest about your political opinions with others, especially if your views are different. If you’re looking to embrace these types of conversations in a tactful way that won’t get you cut out of people’s lives, here are the top three tips to keep it civil:
- Be open. Hold the judgment. We are all guilty of this from time to time. If you find out someone in the office is progressive or conservative, there are immediately preconceived notions assumed based on this newly acquired knowledge.
Put yourself in their shoes, and consider where they are coming from when they are talking about politics. How someone grew up and their background or culture helps shape how they view the world. Everyone’s political opinions are influenced by their experiences in life. Being aware of that can help you understand how they think.
- (Truly) listen to their side. It can be tempting to latch onto one or two things the other person says that you disagree with – especially if they support a candidate or representative you don’t like – and immediately start constructing your counterargument and how you will respond. This doesn’t leave much room to really hear and understand the context and additional information that the other person is sharing with you.
There is also as much that can be conveyed by what is not said. Pay attention to someone’s body language and how they react physiologically as they’re describing their experiences and opinions. It could provide an opportunity to dive deeper into the conversation and learn more about what they are passionate about.
- Be respectful. Your tone and word choice reveal more than you think. Even if you express disagreement, it’s still possible to remain courteous. Using the “sandwich” method is a great way to approach these difficult conversations: “sandwiching” a positive point – like something on which you both agree – with things that are negative.
The most important thing is making sure the other person feels heard and comfortable. And often, looking for common ground is a successful way to do just that.
These tips can serve as a quick “conversation compass” to navigate often unchartered territory. While many Americans find it both stressful and satisfying talking about politics, it is actually healthy to talk to others outside of your political bubble and have frank and constructive discussions about government and policy issues.
Do you think discussing politics with your friends can be risky? Vote in our poll to tell us!