Civility 101

Political Civility 101

Hear me out: let’s talk about how we talk about politics. Half of you just mentally u-turned and the other half either got out pom-poms or scythes.

We have a problem agreeing to disagree in this country. I’ve seen plenty of statistics regarding the unprecedented divisions and cultural dissonance but like most of you, the party lines and political skirmishes on social media, in person and in the written word sorta makes my stomach curdle.

I’ve seen intelligent, rational people begin to act like they’re in the middle of a fully-charged playground brawl except instead of arguing over who got to the monkey bars first, it’s ethical and morally-charged issues that are being shot at each other like vicious missiles.

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It’s all important stuff—I totally get it—but so are the people you’re screamin’ at.

The beneficial aspect about all this political upheaval is that Americans are finally paying attention to the way their government works and why. So, THAT’S what an electoral college is. So this is why we have three tiers of government with checks and balances, etc.

But it seems as if we’ve all forgotten how to agree to disagree. How to state our opinions without alienating all those who think or feel differently. How to be passionate about issues important to you without being a total jerk.

People seem to be much more concerned about being heard than hearing out those who are passionate and who also think they are right.

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Before you engage with anyone who looks at politics, issues or current events in a dramatically different way than you, remember these important pre-cursers to convos.:

• Think real long and hard whether either or both of you are ready to listen to the other.
• Is your main desire to change them? If so, it’s not likely to go well.
• Name calling=no bueno. Insulting or condescending attitude—also a no go.
• Avoid sweeping generalizations such as “all liberals think this” or “all conservatives are this way”. Unless you’ve spoken to every single individual that you’re categorizing, you’re not being accurate and you’re taking the easy, low road.
• Give yourself time to find out facts, opposing viewpoints and sources closest to the issue. Who are the experts? What makes someone an expert? Are they qualified to give rational opinions and facts? What are their sources? Who knows the history of this particular issue best? Don’t be intellectually lazy and believe the first screaming meme or armchair historian or journalist claiming to truly know and understand the complexity of congressional bylaws or presidential history. Be wary of those who have vested interests or biases.

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Then, once you’ve done your homework on all of the above, try some adult conversational lines like these:

• I can see you feel strongly about that. Let me make sure I understand what you’re saying. (Restate without sarcasm or anger, which is incredibly hard.)
• I also am passionate about this issue but I see it from a different perspective because of my (fill in blank) upbringing, education, life experience, religion, work experience, etc. And then state your thoughts without the name-calling or condescending attitude.

Above all, remember that relationships often outrank personal views. Is it really worth ruining friendships, family bonds or causing workplace awkwardness over politics? Does everything we feel and think truly need to be up for public consumption?

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If we do feel compelled to share, can we be true to ourselves and respect other people’s rights to be true to theirs? I sure hope so, because that is bedrock that our nation was built on and I hope we haven’t forgotten that.

*Please be respectful in your comments.*
-photo cred.

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