By Hannah Brzozowski
Politics make me nervous and even, writing this blog makes me nervous. There are so many things around the topic that can go south quickly. And as a type 6 on the Enneagram, I think of all of the things that can potentially go wrong and then panic during political conversations.
What if they think I’m conservative?
What if they think I’m liberal?
What if they think I don’t care?
What if I don’t have all of the answers?
What if they leave the conversation feeling unheard or upset?
What if this ruins our relationship forever?
All of these thoughts rush to my mind so I, in turn, try to avoid the conversations as much as possible. If they come up and I’m forced into them, I’ll have my heart beating out of my chest so much so that my Apple Watch might think that I’m having a heart attack.
As I think about it, I believe my fear stems from social media. I’ve seen the posts saying “If you voted like _________, unfriend me right now.” Or “If you believe this, then tell me so I can delete you.” This cancel culture terrifies me. It makes me scared to talk to anyone, except for Nick (my husband). I don’t want to be “deleted” or “unfriended” because I think or believe differently than you.
But, maybe you are totally different than me and you love the debates and throwing out new ideas. Maybe you thrive off of conflict and love getting someone who’s on the other side to talk with you about the latest political debate. Today’s blog is for you!
Here are a few ways that you can have an important conversation without getting my Apple Watch all worked up.
1. Reassure me at the beginning.
Right from the start, I need to know that you won’t stop being my friend or hate me if I say something you disagree with. Create a space that is safe enough for me to actually speak my mind.
2. Crack some jokes!
Let’s not be too serious. Political conversations get heated quickly and if we can laugh together, I genuinely think that this helps the conversation to move forward. Whenever I’m in a controversial conversation, I look for the parts that I can laugh - it helps relieve the tension and helps us have an enjoyable conversation.
3. Don’t guess my party.
Whenever I’m talking about politics, I’m so nervous that someone is who is liberal is going think I’m conservative - or someone who’s conservative will think that I’m liberal. I don’t want to be seen as the “other side” or the “enemy” nor do I want to be “lumped in” with everything one side does or says. I want to be seen as a human being, not as a label.
4. Listen to my story, not just my stances.
One of the reasons politics is so hard to talk about is because we focus on views instead of hearing people out. Ask me what made me come to conclusion in my own life. What happened that made me think that way? Listen to my story. Then, share what happened to make you believe what you believe. Who knows? This could even help us grow closer as friends.
5. Be curious about things you don’t understand.
If I mention a new book or article in our conversation, write it down and read it. I’ve been trying to do this more in my life. It’s valuable to understand something from another person’s point of view - even if you disagree strongly with them. Plus, a bonus to reading a book: you can disagree all you want and the book won’t know it!
6. Show empathy.
Throughout the conversation, realize that I might not be as excited about this conversation as you are. Or someone else might not be as nervous as I am. I often assume during the conflict that the person is mad at me because I disagree with them. Others might think I’m LOVING this conversation and want it to go on for hours (which trust me, I don’t). Whichever side you land on, keep my feelings, not just my views, in mind.
7. Reassure me at the end.
At the end of the conversation, thank me for having it. Tell me that even though we disagree, we can still be friends. Even ask me how I’m feeling and then, figure out how we can do better next time we talk politics.
People are complicated. People are more than our candidates of choice. People are more than our ideologies. People believe things for reasons we might not fully understand.
Beth A. Silvers and Sarah Stewart Holland
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.