Rules for respectful political discourse
Wednesday, July 4, 2018
While I’m away, readers give the advice.
On not being swallowed up by the political chasms between us:
My wife and I have strongly held political views, and many close family members and close friends do also. I don’t shy away from discussing it and very rarely does the discussion descend into angry exchanges. My own personal rules are: (1) I state what I believe as a matter of conscience and try my best to allow that others have conscientious beliefs, too. (2) Never, never “name call.” (3) Always, always search for something we both agree on. (4) Try to get agreement that we both want what’s best for our country, we just disagree on how to get it.
These rules have served me well for years and I have many warm relationships with family and friends who believe the polar opposite of the things I believe. Hasn’t worked every time, but the exceptions are rare. — K.
How about speaking honestly from the heart? “It’s great that you care so much about what’s going on in this country, and that you are passionate about your beliefs. We see things differently, and our views are as important to us as yours are to you. We could spend this time arguing with each other, but that seems like a frustrating way to spend our visit. Instead, we could try taking turns just listening to each other with an open mind, asking questions to understand where each other is coming from. Or, we could just agree to put politics aside and spend our time together (fill in preferred activities).” — P.
Arguing with facts and logic is worse than useless. The person you argue with has deep emotional reasons for his/her position, has established a worldview that shields that person from the perceived problem, and experiences contrary facts and logic as a very frightening threat. The response is to just deepen the denial and dig in all the harder. Ask questions rather than push an opposing position.
■ You seem to feel very strongly about this. Why is that? How does it affect you personally? (Try to get to the basis of the feelings in terms of the personal threat, not some external situation.)
■ A lot of good people feel otherwise. What do you think is the basis of their position? (Nudge the person into seeing it from a different viewpoint.)
■ Blaming the past is not productive. What is the problem we have now and how can we work together to find an answer?
Fighting about it gets us nowhere. — B.
Listen respectfully with an open mind but don’t argue. It amazes that when viewed through the lens of preconceived opinions, the same facts lead to such opposing conclusions, and no one attempts to consider the other’s viewpoint. Does just turning assumptions around open your mind, even a little? — Passionate Moderate
Email Carolyn Hax at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.