Religion and politics are two things that should never come up in social situations, but for some reason, they always seem to be brought up by someone. Then, we political junkies have a choice: stay quiet without making eye contact or blurt out our opposing opinions. Because while we love talking about our beliefs, it’s so important that we keep several things in mind while asserting ourselves.
1. Step back from social media.
Social media, Twitter and Facebook especially, has become a hotspot for everyone’s political opinions. This platform helps people inform themselves and grow politically if they follow legitimate news outlets and government agencies; however, political arguments--often with people you don’t even know-- have no place on your timeline. Having a serious, intellectual political argument in person is one thing, but snarky, sometimes only 140-character public messages only reflect poorly on you and your opponent. Sure, it can be easy to get carried away when you’re hiding behind a keyboard, but it’s wise to avoid online conflict although we’ve all fallen into the trap once or twice. Posting can be forever, and all your friends and followers see whatever you say, so you should be careful with what you put on the web.
2. Stop the name-calling.
When you’re in the middle of a political argument, it’s hard not to take comments personally or get defensive, but doing just that is really key. You lose credibility if your response to a point is, “Well, you’re just awful,” or “I can’t believe how stupid you are.” Keep in mind that you’re advocating for your opinion, not just why you disagree with something else. Back up your opinion with the facts, and make it your goal to convince the other person that you’re right, not that he or she is wrong. The most important thing to remember is that you want to be treated with respect, so you need to give the other person the same courtesy.
3. Know your facts.
There are so many people who begin arguments in which they have no place, and that’s where the trouble starts. I see arguments on Twitter all the time in which one person is hopelessly misguided, supporting his or her self with points that are simply untrue. You have to know your stuff or you’re just going to look foolish in the long run, which none of us want. If you find yourself in a political argument--or even a formal debate--it’s imperative that you have statistics and proven facts. Whether or not your opponent ends up agreeing with you, there will be a mutual respect between the two of you if you cut out the insults and support your arguments factually.
4. Choose your battles wisely.
There are some people who just can’t be reasoned with. Both sides of the political spectrum have radicals who aren’t going to change their opinion and will only throw out unwarranted insults if you try to engage with them. If you hear something completely outlandish, it’s sometimes better to swallow your pride a little bit and decide not to respond. There are some "battles" that simply aren’t worth it, and you have every right to decide whether or not you want to express yourself in any given moment. As a Republican about to be on a college campus, I don't plan to engage in conflict all the time, not because I'm unsure of myself but because sometimes I'd just like to relax. Carefully choosing when to engage in arguments doesn’t make you weak, it makes you civil and smart.
5. See the other side, and for the love of everything, let them talk.
When most people politically argue, they try to do most of the talking as if not letting the other person speak means an instant victory. Hearing the other person out isn’t easy because often, we fundamentally disagree with whatever he or she is saying, but if we never listen, we don’t even know what we’re arguing against. Even though tensions are high in the moment, take a deep breath and really listen to what the other person is saying. The best case scenario is that while you assert yourself and your opinions, you also learn something from your political opposite. The entire political system needs more tolerance, and you always have the capability of being tolerant.
6. End the discussion with a resolution.
Some of the most common marriage advice is to never go to bed angry, and similarly, my advice here is to never end an argument with an insult or nasty word. It takes a big person to support themselves passionately while also listening respectfully. By ending your argument with, “I don’t think we’ll ever agree, but I see where you’re coming from and I respect that,” is the best thing you can do. More people will be eager to discuss politics--or just talk as fellow human beings--in the future with you if you conduct yourself in a respectful way. Plus, there's no reason you can't be friends with people who you don't politically agree with; in fact, some of my best friends from high school are my complete political opposite.
Whether you get an adrenaline rush from discussing politics or simply don’t want to be trampled by "the other side," knowing how to properly assert yourself and your beliefs is essential. Next time you find yourself disagreeing with someone, remember to be respectful and have the facts on your side.
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