Stop Avoiding Political Conversations

talking politics

Having political conversations with friends and family can seem like a perfect storm leading to fights, headaches, and fall outs. But it’s a vital part of any relationship. By talking about politics, we’re exposed to new ways of thinking that hopefully help us understand each other better.

I’ve become more politically aware over the last few years and I have my Dad and college experience to thank for that. Politics has always been a main topic of discussion in my household. More often than not, we don’t fully agree on topics. But by simply talking about it, it forces us to consider alternative points we may not have been thinking about.

Let’s be honest, we surround ourselves with people, media, and other content that reflects our beliefs. We can be mad all we want at the partisanship that is prevalent in the media, but we helped create that. There’s nothing that requires us to broaden our horizons and seek out other opinions on anything.

I’m lucky enough to say that I have learned so much from my friends as well. Many of them follow politics more closely than I do. They also bring with them a unique perspective due to their experiences in the world. All of this colors their beliefs, usually in a positive way.

We’re all involved in different communities and when we spread ideas from ours to others – in a respectful way – through discussions, it can help reach new audiences. Speaking as a white cis-woman, I’ve benefited by hearing the political opinions of my friends who have different experiences than I do, based on how they identify, where they come from, and all the other aspects that color and shape our experiences.

I’d like to think I empathize with certain issues, but the truth is I have no first hand knowledge what it is like to be impacted by immigration laws, or laws that prevent people from being treated equally based on who I love or how I identify.

It’s okay to not agree with your family or friends. But it isn’t okay to avoid conversations like this for fear of falling out. Or because you don’t want to deal with the potential conflict.

Doing this shows how much privilege some of us have, that we are able to turn away and ignore the hardship of others and how that relates to our current political climate.

Psychologist Vaile Wright worded it succinctly in an article with Vox.

“If you stay on the surface with your relationships to keep the peace and choose not to have these tough conversations with people, what are you losing out on in the long run? You probably aren’t having a fully meaningful relationship with that person because neither of you are taking the time or initiative to understand each other’s point of view.”

By engaging in political conversations we’re also putting ourselves in a spot to analyze our own political viewpoints. Things sound great in your head while thinking them over, but can become something else entirely once said out loud.

Change starts with us and the only way we can see true change is if we talk about issues like politics. By expanding our viewpoint with diverse voices, we can create a more understanding world.

There are so many times where I’ve avoided political conversations with anyone whom I know that I have differing viewpoints from. I’ve made the mistake of assuming they wouldn’t listen to me or consider my opinions. I’m sure they felt the same about me.

We should all be learning from each other. That’s how growth happens. We’re doing ourselves a disservice by avoiding political conversations. No more avoiding it at Thanksgiving or Christmas get togethers.

Talking about politics doesn’t have to be scary.

Cover image courtesy of Esquire Philippines. 

Also published on Medium.