(c) tony4urban www.fotosearch.com
Source: (c) tony4urban www.fotosearch.com

Political differences can easily strain family and friend relationships.  In the weeks just before an election, voters' feelings tend to intensify, making animosity about political differences all the more likely to rise.

Why do these issues create tensions? 

Any differences between people can trigger desires to convince the other to 'see it my way!'  Convincing, however, is less effective, and more likely to create relationship rifts, than simply sharing perspectives.

The impulse to convince others of the rightness of your view and the wrongness of theirs gets all the stronger for everyone when the issue feels like one of importance. The outcome of Presidential elections in particularly is likely to have strong impacts on people's lives, i.e., on their financial status, on how much government programs will either help or hinder them, on whether our citizens will be safe from physical danger with regard to guns, terrorism, international enemies, etc.

Some people have more ability to allow others to be different. This ability takes patience. It takes willingness to give the other person the benefit of the doubt, that is, to assume that there is something valid in their viewpoint as well as in yours. This ability also rests on ability to keep your emotions in the calm zone. 

Hopefully, instead of convincing others that your view is the best and only correct political (or any) perspective, you would prefer to enter into genuinely collaborative dialogue. 

If so, here are eight effective sentence starter words plus three phrases that you must avoid if you want to smooth the ripples and rifts in your political conversations. 

Good to use:

  1. Yes. "Yes, that's a serious concern for me as well."
  2. I agree that... "I agree that policies and personality both are important to consider."
  3. What... e.g., What do you think might...? 
  4. How... e.g., How do you feel about...?
  5. My concern is...
  6. What are your concerns in considering who to vote for?
  7. And at the same time... Yes, I agree that higher taxes are unappealing and at the same time...
  8. Good point.  For sure.  That's important. ... and other positive words of agreement or appreciation.

Avoid at all costs:


No, that's not so.

I disagree.

Aim for additive dialogue

The eight safe sentences starters keep dialogue flowing cooperatively because whatever anyone says gets heard with "the good ear," that is, with an intention of finding something that you can agree with.  And what is said is offered without an "I'm right; you're wrong!" emotional tag attached.

The starter words to avoid all immediate set participants in any dialogue into oppositional positioning.  If someone tell you that what you have said is wrong, or dismisses what you have said by deleting it with "but," you are bound to feel tempted either to defend yourself or to counter-attack.

Maybe talking politics can train you for handling all life disagreements.

Are you up to the challenge? Willing to give it a try? 

While staying calm and cooperative is likely to feel difficult at first, 'tis the season to get practice.


(c) Susan Heitler
Source: (c) Susan Heitler

Susan Heitler, PhD is author of the book on collaborative communication skills called The Power of Two.  Her latest book, Prescriptions Without Pills: For Relief from Depression, Anger, Anxiety and More, adds further tips for keeping potentially adversarial conversations collaborative, friendly and gratifying. 

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