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Crucial Applications: How to Talk Politics with Friends—and Still Have Some Left

Romney and Obama aren’t the only ones taking sides in intense debates this election season. According to our recent poll, 62 percent of Americans have found themselves in heated debates and the victims of verbal attacks when discussing politics—with their friends.

According to the survey:

  • Three out of five say they’ve had a political conversation damage a relationship with a friend, family member or coworker, and 14 percent say the relationship never truly recovered.
  • Only 15 percent of respondents believe they can express their full political views to others without getting upset.
  • Rather than risk an emotional verbal battle, 86 percent avoid political discussions and one in 10 report they stay away from political banter at all costs.

You don’t have to be a pushover or stay silent in order to keep your friends this election season. Here are four tips for successfully talking politics with friends, family, and coworkers:

  1. Look for areas of agreement. Let the other person know you share common goals, even if your preferred tactics for achieving them differ.
  2. Avoid personal attacks. While you don’t have to agree with the other person’s view, you can still acknowledge that his or her view is valid, rather than “idiotic” or “evil.”
  3. Focus on facts and be tentative. Consider the source of your facts, and ask the other person to do the same. Ask two questions: Could the facts be biased? Could they be interpreted differently?
  4. Look for signs of disagreement. If the other person grows quiet or starts to become defensive, reinforce your respect and remind him or her of the broader purpose you both share.

2 thoughts on “Crucial Applications: How to Talk Politics with Friends—and Still Have Some Left”

  1. This is, sadly, an unfortunate truth. At a time when we most need to discuss our future, we find we can’t – or won’t – for fear of offending or being offended – or worse, being verbally attacked.
    It’s too bad we can’t require all the “talking heads” to read this. I truly believe much of the antagonistic nature of our friends and family come from emulating the “experts”. If these are the “experts”, where does that leave the ones looking for guidance?

  2. Agreed. Civility, true discourse, and objective listening are absent from these political “discussions”. Why share an opinion when you come away realizing you have been attacked or insulted? (“I thought you were smart.” “You live in a bubble.”) I so rarely share what I think or feel anymore as my thoughts are perceived as intolerant because I have differing opinions. Since when did true discourse become a painfully absent skill? Why do people attack and/or say they are being attacked just because you share the same thoughts or beliefs? Since when did it become so fashionable to act like a victim (“you offended me”) rather than just respecting that we are human, we are individuals, and we live in a free society where everyone has the right of free speech?

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