Americans seem to be more politically divided than ever, and with Thanksgiving just around the corner after a contentious election, there’s again the concern about how to talk to family members you disagree with about politics. Even if your Thanksgiving will be virtual this year because of the pandemic, you can still have political arguments over Zoom that everyone would like to avoid. Actor Alan Alda, who hosts a podcast called, Clear and Vivid, about new ways to connect with other people, recently spoke about navigating difficult conversations with a former FBI hostage negotiator, Chris Voss. Business Insider spoke to Voss, Alda, and social worker Elizabeth McCorvey about some tips for how to speak with someone you strongly disagree with about politics, and put together six of them:
- Don’t start the conversation with politics, start with care — Establish some common ground first. Alda says: “Before you talk about politics, it might be a good idea to talk about how good the turkey is,” and McCorvey recommends starting off by simply asking the other person how they’ve been.
- Listen and repeat what the person says to establish empathy — You have to understand someone’s point of view if you’re going to debate them. Voss said, “It’s completely understanding, with no judgment, where the other side’s coming from.”
- Find the common ground — McCorvey explains: “You might not agree on how we can be kind to one another and have everybody covered by healthcare and what the best plan for that is, but you can agree — maybe — that people shouldn’t die in the streets.”
- Be curious — Stay curious about what you’re hearing from the other person the whole time you’re speaking together. You may find a new aspect of the conversation you weren’t expecting or realize a new point of clarity between you.
- Don’t be in it to win it — leave your ego at the door — The goal shouldn’t be for the other person to just say, “You’re right.”
- Practice healthy conflict — If political divisions in your family bother you, you should be having these kinds of conversations regularly. McCorvey says it’s important to be comfortable having them, and it would be good to find ways to practice with others in your life.
- What do you think about these tips for talking about politics with people you disagree with, including family and friends?
- Are some of these that you already do? If so, which have you found are most successful?
- Do you try to have these kinds of conversations with family at the holidays, or do you just try to avoid political talk in those situations if you know there are family members you disagree with politically? Why?
- Even if you usually do have these kinds of conversations, and even with these tips in hand, might you still avoid them this year because everyone is already so stressed and on edge because of the pandemic?