America’s intense and sensitive political climate, as of late, is one that not many people necessarily know how to talk about or discuss with others. In particular, many of the racial, ethnic, and homophobic images that we have recently seen in the media through Charlottesville or remarks made by the president make many Americans uncomfortable. It often appears that sometimes we don’t understand how to properly be an ally or have these important conversations without hurting someone’s feelings or sounding insensitive. But not to worry: Slope has compiled a few tips on how to have a political conversation in this current climate without hurting anyone or being uncomfortable in the process. Hopefully if we take the time to have these important conversations and consider everyone who’s involved, the future of our country can be a little bit brighter.
Understand where people are coming from and their background
Everyone has a reason for why they believe what they do. Sometimes the reason has to do with how or where someone was raised. Other times it is based on their own religious, racial, or socioeconomic identities. One’s experiences and interpretation of the world around them completely affect how they react to certain political topics and their views. It is important to first understand this about one another and proceed with a conversation from there. This way you can understand how and why a person responded a certain way to a political event.
Try to not get defensive
One of the hardest parts of having tough conversations is not constantly defending yourself and what you believe in when you feel as if you are being attacked. Becoming defensive can easily lead to harsh words that don’t help the conversation progress. To keep your defensiveness in check, try talking through what you found was offensive or off-putting; this can help you figure out how to further the conversation in a more productive way.
Take a moment to listen
It’s difficult to hear someone on the other side of the political spectrum talk about a topic in a way that you do not necessarily agree with. But turning the other cheek and blocking out what they have to say completely won’t accomplish anything either. Instead of neglecting what the other side has to say, try hearing out their viewpoints and their arguments. It may not always be the most agreeable discussion, but it’s important to learn from each other and have discourses that can broaden each of your perspectives.
Talk about the uncomfortable topics
The only way we will be able to further progress our society as a whole is if we talk about political issues that will affect us in the future, most of which make everyone a little uncomfortable. Topics that make people uneasy are usually topics that need to be talked about and that affect everyone. Not having these conversations does not better our understanding of each other or our environments. With more conversation, previously “uncomfortable” topics to confront and discuss become much less awkward. Don’t be afraid to embrace that awkwardness when someone brings up a bigoted comment they heard on the news and contribute your view or opinion. If you’re convincing enough, hopefully others will also add in.
Do your best to be sensitive to everyone
Since everyone has a different background and has had different experiences, we must remember to be sensitive to everyone throughout the conversation. Do not disregard someone’s feelings or sentiments, try not to patronize them, and most importantly try to empathize and see it from their point of view. Not everyone will feel the same about every topic, or will have the same sensitivity levels that you do. Recognizing this and trying to be sensitive to everyone and their experiences is what will progress not only the conversation, but hopefully contribute to a more productive, better political climate.
It can be very difficult to keep all these aspects of a conversation in mind when you’re debating or discussing our country’s current political climate. As long as we, especially as millennials, take steps to make sure that these conversations are had in a productive fashion, we will be able to progress society more than we think.