Do you wish your political disagreements looked a little more like this:
...and a little less like this?
Political disagreements with friends or family members can get heated, so having a plan to de-escalate these tough conversations will help you and your sparring partner steer the conversation in a healthier direction.
Have A Goal
Ask yourself one big question: what's my goal in this conversation?
Identifying your intentions will help you be strategic about where you spend your energy .
Recognize what is (and isn’t) in your control to change. Your goal should be something you can actually achieve without escalating the conflict further.
Examples of effective goals for the conversation:
Finding common ground
Understanding different opinions
Exchanging new ideas and perspectives
Identifying shared values
If you’re not sure what your goal is, it might be a good idea to step back and decide if this a conversation worth having right now.
It can be tempting to respond to anger with more anger. It’s normal to feel an intense response when our beliefs are being challenged, but it might add more fuel to the fire.
Body Language & Voice
Pay attention to how your emotions feel in your body. Project open, non-threatening body language by keeping your arms loose and uncrossed, and use a soft tone of voice.
If You Lashed Out
Take responsibility and apologize for your part in escalating the conflict. Don't try to justify your anger. Walk away if the conversation is too heated to stay in control.
You’re having coffee with your friend Suni, who tells you she's volunteering for a local mayoral campaign. This candidate for mayor has a policy proposal you think is bad for the city. Which of these would NOT be an effective goal for your discussion?
In a heated discussion, don't get distracted preparing a hard-hitting response in your head! Instead, practice the art of active listening and give the other person your undivided attention.
When it’s your turn to speak, repeat back what you’ve just heard so the other person can clarify . This helps limit misunderstandings that can make a disagreement worse.
Now that you’re listening attentively, start asking questions! Being curious moves things away from a debate into a dialogue.
You can also use tentative words to signal openness and curiosity, such as:
I wonder if...
It sounds like...
It seems as though...
Try to notice your own “binary thinking” (where there are only 2 options: yes/no, good/bad, etc.). Explore their perspective without passing judgement.
Alex tells you: “I won’t vote for anyone who plans to raise taxes. They already take too much of my money!” Choose the response that shows active listening and using tentative words.
There’s a few things you can do to be prepared the next time you find yourself in a political disagreement: