"No politics at the dinner table!" That's sad. What happens politically impacts us all. Yet political differences can easily strain family and friend relationships.
Any differences between people can trigger desires to convince the other to 'see it my way!' Convincing, however, can create relationship rifts. Better to simply share perspectives if you want to sustain a gratifying relationship.
The impulse to convince others of the rightness of your view—and the wrongness of theirs—gets all the stronger when an issue feels important. Political actions strongly impact people's lives, i.e., their financial status, how much government programs will either help or hinder them, whether our citizens will be safe from physical danger with regard to guns, terrorism, international enemies, etc.
Some people are able to allow others to be different. Open-mindedness 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. It also ability to keep emotions in the calm zone.
Here are eight effective sentence-starter words plus three phrases to avoid. Take these lists seriously if you want to smooth the ripples and rifts in your political conversations.
Good to use:
Avoid at all costs:
No, that's not so.
The eight safe sentences-starters keep dialogue flowing cooperatively. They offer information without attaching an "I'm right; you're wrong!" emotional tag. They also facilitate listening with "the good ear," that is, with an intention of finding something that you can agree with.
The starter words also avoid oppositional positioning. For instance, if someone tells you that what you have said is wrong, or dismisses what you have said by deleting it with "but," you are likely to defend yourself or to counter-attack.
Are you up to the challenge? Willing to give it a try?
Stay calm and positive. While sustaining cooperation is likely to feel difficult at first, 'tis the season to get practice.
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.