The 2016 election year is upon us, and the odds are you have found yourself talking about it with friends. If that’s the case, it can begin to feel a lot like giving a mouse a cookie: If I talk about the day, I talk about the news. If I talk about the news, I talk about politics. If I talk about politics, I lose my friends. Well, here at GenLife365, we don’t want you to lose your friends. So, how do we discuss the election without it ending in a huge debate?
Step 1: Love
Before engaging in any sort of argument, it is important to remind yourself that you are speaking to another human being. If you read a bit on human dignity in Pope Saint John Paul II’s Evangelium Vitae, you know that human dignity is rooted in being a son or daughter of God. Period. Neither our value, nor anyone else’s, is in any way dependent on our political views. This can be helpful to remember when you disagree with someone, especially when you disagree with them about ideas you are passionate about. That leads me to the next step.
Step 2: Look for Common Ground
When engaging in an argument, especially about an election, remember that a person is not just the sum of their political ideas. Oftentimes, two or more people can come from a very similar background of life goals and aspirations, yet have very different ideas of how to reach them. This can even apply to how they approach big-picture things such as how to best protect and respect human beings.
In the end, most people want what is best for other people. We just disagree on the things in between. Recognize that the person you are arguing with probably wants the same things as you in the end. Doing this will help you maintain your respect for them even if their are many points of difference.
Step 3: Know How to Distinguish Between an Argument and a Fight
It is important to realize that having an argument with someone is a good thing. It is healthy to exchange different ideas, and can help each side better understand an issue. However, be careful that your argument does not become a fight. An argument is characterized by respect for another and a sharing of ideas, while a fight consists of attacks against a person and a lack of effective communication. In order to bolster this “effective communication,” consider the next step.
Step 4: Do Your Research on Election Issues
Make sure that when you are discussing politics, you know what you are talking about. It is much easier to defend your ideas and positions if you have facts or examples to back them up. Otherwise, it is easy to simply attack another person rather than their ideas.
This step is important even if you’re not old enough to vote this time. Politically-charged issues will still likely come up in your class discussions, talks with your friends, and over the dinner table. Being informed may help you convince someone to change their mind who can vote! Plus, if you are in the habit of learning about political issues before you can vote, you will be that much more prepared by the time you turn 18.
Step 5: Pray
In election seasons, it is easy to get wrapped up in all of the news (whether it is news you like or news you do not) and forget that in any battle, our first defense is prayer. So spend some time offered in prayer for our great nation, especially during such an uncertain time. There are a lot of people who are going to making many decisions which will have consequences for years to come.
No matter what the ideology, most everyone has the same goal this election season: Decide who to vote for that will best lead our nation. Keeping in mind these five steps until (and even after) the election, can help you maintain friendships while crafting a well-informed opinion before you head to the polls. It is your right and duty to vote in the elections; it is not a requirement that you lose your friends doing it.
Try to change the election narrative to: If you watch the news, you learn about the issues. If you learn about the issues, you can do more research. If you do more research, you can explain your opinions. If you explain your opinions with love and respect, you can keep your friends. We want you to keep your friends.