With the Republican National Convention coming to a close this evening and campaign season poised to shift into high gear now is the time for all to consider thoughtfully engaging others in political dialogue. While political conversations can be very scary and tend to be contentious the reality is that they do not have to be that way. Contrary to what national TV news networks would like you to believe it is completely realistic for you to expect to have a calm and constructive conversation with a person who holds a political view that differs from yours.
The foundation for productive conversation is one’s ability to recognize the factors that contribute to confrontational and counterproductive exchanges and minimizing or avoiding them. The truth is there are loud and active wings on each side of the political spectrum that you will never reach. Quite simply they are not interested in listening to any viewpoint that does not align with theirs and trying to win them over to your way of thinking would be a complete and total waste of your time. It’s not to say that they are “bad” people or “intolerant” they are just very firm in their political ideology and that’s ok.
The key to effective political evangelism is being an active listener. People really want to be heard and given the opportunity they will speak freely to you which will begin the process of endearing you to them. When a person knows that they have been listened to and that you really care about their views and background they are much more likely to be willing to listen to yours when the appropriate time presents itself. If you are just waiting for your turn to talk you are sunk. Nobody has ever changed their mind by being told why they are wrong, it just doesn’t work.
Furthermore, remember that cable news networks are on TV to make money not to convert people to their political ideology. Therefore their discussion model does not translate whatsoever into personal dialogue. They are catering to your views and your appetite to be affirmed. Your wellbeing is secondary to profit to the suits at the networks. The anchors aren’t your personal advocates. They are paid to get you to continually watch their programming in order to maximize advertising dollars. The easiest way for them to accomplish that is to stroke your ego and tell you what you want to hear. Don’t waste too much time rallying around the boob tube.
So now that we’ve covered all that ground lets layout a tangible plan that will help you achieve maximum effectiveness… If you follow these five steps you are much more likely to have success in advancing your political viewpoint. (1) Be pragmatic when watching your candidate make speeches and evaluating their stance on hot button issues. (2) Take notes and compare and contrast the ideas of both he and his opponent. (3) Spend a substantial amount of time thinking about what fundamental ideology would drive someone to either agree or disagree with you. (4) Organize those thoughts into concise messages that can be easily introduced while conversing with someone of a differing political background. (5) When the time comes to engage someone in political dialogue patiently and attentively listen to their ideas and opinions, follow that by touching on a few points that you both can agree on, and then politely and respectfully introduce your stance on the subject at hand.
While the majority of the time you will not win over their hearts and minds on the spot it sure beats running around arguing with everyone who disagrees with you. The aforementioned approach plants a seed which can be watered and tenderly cultivated in the future. Who knows maybe someday they will be a convert to your way of thinking, maybe not? But it sure beats leaving a trail of strained relationships and hurt feelings in your wake. So, go be purposeful!