Using political conversation productively

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Political conversation is often devoid of virtue. Nothing good comes of it. Participants talk back and forth at each other but hearts and minds are closed. The way we talk about politics reflects who we are as individuals. It sheds light on our beliefs and our ability to communicate, but it can also take up a lot of time, so it should be used productively as an opportunity to better ourselves and our peers.

Openness is the golden rule of political discussion. The whole point of talking about politics in the first place is to exchange ideas. It is fruitless unless you absorb these ideas and allow them to shape your opinions. You don’t have to change who you’re voting for, but you should allow it as a possibility. I rarely see someone’s mind changed in a political discussion, and it’s often due to a lack of openness. Being open is the first step toward a successful discourse.

Acknowledging weakness comes as a result of openness, and it is particularly relevant in this election cycle. I have talked to Clinton supporters who brush aside the email controversy as irrelevant, and I have talked to Trump supporters who feel no sympathy for the people he insults. Both attitudes are an unwillingness to acknowledge and accept one’s faults. People don’t want to admit to their weaknesses because it makes them feel inferior, but in truth, admitting weakness requires a tremendous strength of will. Admit your candidate’s flaws, and allow it to shape your opinion.

After becoming more open-minded, learn how to argue. Arguing is not raising your voice so that it can be heard above the rest of the group; arguing is using facts to support your opinions. A soft-spoken person with facts is infinitely better than any loud person whose facts are actually semi-truths. Don’t fall into the trap that louder is better.

Logic is often thrown by the wayside in political conversations. This is because e m o t i o n blurs logic. People get emotional when talking about politics because it relates directly to their quality of life. They see people with opposing viewpoints as opponents to their quality of life, so it’s no wonder that tempers can flare.

You should understand that everyone is trying to look out for their best interest. Acknowledge this and you will become less emotional when the time comes to talk about candidates. And if you still need more help, follow Thomas Jefferson’s advice: “When angry, count to ten before you speak. If very angry, count to one hundred.”

Now here comes the tricky part. When you are arguing, your greatest asset is your knowledge. If you don’t know enough about a subject, absolutely do not attempt to argue about it. Arguing about something of which you have no knowledge is one of the most pointless things you can do. If you want to be involved in the conversation, read about the topic beforehand.

Becoming well-versed in political knowledge is a difficult task, however. Mainstream news organizations are often caught telling lies and have been shown to have political agendas. You cannot use information from sources like these.

In order to have an informed opinion, you must cross reference your facts. Check with multiple sources in order to make sure that something is true. You are not helping anybody when you argue with information that you pulled from a single source.

The current state of political conversation is abhorrent. It is largely due to social media and the ease with which uninformed opinions can be spread. Choose to rise above the mindlessness plaguing our connected world. You will find that being logical and civil in political discussions will carry over into your everyday life. Talking about politics can be productive. Who would’ve thought?