Dear Dr. Shari,

It seems that when I talk politics, it always goes too far. I can be in a conversation that I think is purely friendly, and then all of a sudden, I notice that the person I am talking to is freaking out. I don’t see it coming! Can we not speak of politics at all? How can I avoid this happening. — Bob

Hi Bob,

First, I am wondering if the people you are speaking politics with actually want to be in a conversation about politics. A lot of people just hate speaking about politics for this very reason.. it leads to negativity. My first suggestion is, “know your audience” Bob.

The best, first, path to resolution is to consider your own role in the issue.

First, ask yourself, “Why am I in this conversation?”

If your answer is that you want to convince the other person to change their views, I can tell you that this is why people eventually freak out on you. People like to be heard, not changed. So, unless you are asked to enlighten them to a new way of thinking, consider starting your sentences with “My opinion is..” as opposed to telling people how to think.

Second, with whom am I choosing to speak?

When you delve into political conversations, know your partner in communication. People are pretty transparent with their workability and reasonability when it comes to these conversations. Don’t start in with a person you know tends to be argumentative on this topic. Why bother? Also, check yourself Bob, are YOU the argumentative person? If you are, you are going to irritate people, so don’t complain when people don’t react positively.

Third: Admit the difficulty.

When two opposing views come together, each person is placed in a position of defense. Understand that. It is a barrier to communication that you must be willing to acknowledge and conquer if it is to go well. Start conversations with “Although we have opposing views, I am glad that we can still have a reasonable conversation of sharing opinions.”

Fourth: wrap it up the minute you experience and escalation in voices or emotion.

Period.

My best,

Dr. Shari

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