Political Conversations: Civility and Appropriateness

From now until Election Day in November, we will all be bombarded with news and talk about the various candidates and issues.  Some people are very intense in their convictions, and it can be difficult to know how to respond when they speak up, or to know what is appropriate to bring up.  As the old saying goes, if you want to avoid offending others, you shouldn’t discuss religion, politics or money.

It is our constitutional right in this country to argue issues publicly and try to raise support for our viewpoints.  Debate and criticism can help us to affirm or reevaluate our own positions, and can bring about positive change.  Just remember that people can get upset when you challenge their opinions, and be sure to communicate your ideas respectfully.

So, when and where is it probably okay to talk about political candidates and issues?

  • With friends, it is fine to speak up, and you can have some stimulating discussions, but be prepared to change the subject if things get unpleasant.
  • Talking at home with your family is pretty safe, unless your opinions are very different.
  • Remarks to your boyfriend’s/girlfriend’s parents could cause other problems.
  • At your workplace, don’t do it – you aren’t being paid to argue politics, and it could hurt you professionally or harm working relationships.
  • At special occasions, such as holidays, weddings or reunions, it’s better to avoid politics – people want happy memories of these times.
  • On social media, be very careful – people may not want your opinions posted on their pages, and they may not want to wade through all that on your page. Facebook is supposed to be a friendly place, not a battleground.  Also, remember that your current or future employer may be viewing your page.
  • With neighbors, you should skip the political issues – neighborhood arguments can be nasty.
  • In a bar, partisan talk could get you into a fight.
  • On street corners, say whatever you want – but be prepared for ridicule or hostility.

Don’t assume that another person, even a close friend, agrees with you.  Whatever your viewpoint, be civil when making your case.  Shouting or treating someone with contempt will not help you to influence his/her ideas.  Stick to facts, share opinions calmly and don’t engage in mud-slinging.  It’s good to ask questions, and then listen to the response courteously – you might learn something new.  If it becomes obvious that you can’t have a polite discussion with certain people, you can just agree to disagree.  Save your energy for someone who might be won over.

Finally, if you do end up damaging a relationship, consider mediation.

 

JCMS offers FREE mediation to Jefferson County citizens and businesses.  Mediation is a good way to discuss a dispute reasonably, with a neutral third party (a mediator) to facilitate the conversation.  The mediators won’t tell you what to do, give legal advice, or say who is right or wrong, but they are trained to help people with disagreements to work together to find a resolution, instead of having a shouting match.  For more information on mediation, go to our website at www.JeffcoMediation.com, or call us at 303.271.5060. Para Espanol, 720-577-5826.