Want to Talk About the Debate? How to Talk Beyond Your Bubble

Did you watch the Presidential debate Tuesday night?

If your neighbor caught you at your mailbox, would you engage in a discussion about it? Or does even the thought of talking politics cause you panic?

Talk Beyond Our Bubbles

Can You Stand the Heat?

If my dad were still here, I’m sure he would love to have a discussion about the debate. I just can’t decide which side he would be on.

We all know this saying:

“If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

It was the opposite in my house.

As I was growing up, Sunday lunch meant a homemade feast after church prepared by my mom in the kitchen (usually roast & potatoes, all manners of vegetables grown from the garden, a sweet dessert or two).

But the heat was in the dining room.

It was in the dining room that my dad would lead a fiery discussion. Maybe about what we agreed or disagreed with about the Sunday sermon. Or about politics. Or philosophy. Or anything really. 

If you grew uncomfortable with the conversation, you fled to the kitchen to cool down and wash dishes with my mom.

I usually stayed in the dining room. The discussions were fun and lively. Our family and Sunday guests tossed around opinions both softly and loudly.

But when it was over and the dishes were all cleared? We were expected to remain friends. To still love each other. To promise to get together again soon and do it all again.

Are we still that civil today?

Get Out of Our Bubbles

Sometimes I’d rather just hang out with my own people, stay in my own bubble. It feels safer. The divisions outside our bubbles seem sharper than ever.

But I remember my dad. And I believe this: he’d want me to keep having the discussions that he’s no longer here to have.

Books like this help promote healthy discussionsBeyond Your Bubble: How to Connect Across the Political Divide, Skills and Strategies for Conversations That Work.

Beyond Your Bubble

In the book, author and professor Dr. Tania Israel gives us motivation and advice to carry on meaningful dialogues with those we disagree with.

“My aim is to support people who want to connect with those who have different political views and values by offering concrete skills, as well as overarching principles and strategies that will promote constructive conversation.”

Whether you enjoy talking politics or whether you hate it with a passion, Dr. Israel gives you ways to decrease the stress of how we talk to each other.

I’ve been testing Dr. Israel’s advice. When I get fiery feedback from friends on Instagram stories or Facebook posts, I try to stay engaged in a positive direction. I try to dig underneath the anger (theirs and mine!) to cultivate understanding instead.

But it’s hard. Sometimes I just want to hit delete and forget about it.

And sometimes I do just delete, with no regrets. It’s okay. There are times I need to be more like my mom, retreating to a quieter space (not necessarily the kitchen though) rather than stay in the dining room if the heated conversations have turned suffocating.

Even Dr. Israel points this out:

Just because you can have dialogue doesn’t mean you must in every situation. It’s an opportunity, not a mandate.”

But other times, I need to stick it out. Stay with the dialogue. Make sure it ends with the friendship still intact.

Even if neither of us shift an inch in our position, if we show grace to each other along the way, I count it a win.

“Dialogue isn’t about winning. It’s about understanding.”

If you were here in person, we could talk about the debate together. But it’s not quite the same online.

I’ll wait until we can take it up in person over a kitchen table with a Krispy Kreme doughnut and a can of Dr. Pepper instead.

Tips from Beyond Your Bubble

Here is important advice from Tania Israel in Beyond Your Bubble.

Ask questions from a place of curiosity rather than judgment. Don’t try to lure someone into saying something inconsistent or incorrect and then leaping on them with a ‘gotcha’ – it won’t help anything, and it’s disrespectful.”

It’s more important to simply be present than to be brilliant.

“Vulnerability is not knowing how the other person will respond, but making space for it anyway. We need to embrace, or at least tolerate, this vulnerability if we want to understand another person more than we want to advocate for our own perspective.”

“The first rule of timing: don’t interrupt just to ask a question.”

It’s a little bit magical how much people appreciate being heard and understood.”

“People’s tendency to believe that people on their side are motivated by love, and people on the other side are motivated by hate appears to be at the root of some of the world’s most intractable conflicts.”

Focus on the relationship, and persuasion may follow.”

Do you enjoy talking politics? Or do you detest it? Share your thoughts in the comments.

My thanks to Net Galley
for the review copy of this book

37 thoughts on “Want to Talk About the Debate? How to Talk Beyond Your Bubble

  1. bill (cycleguy)

    I detest it. Unless someone says something first and asks my opinion I tend to stay silent. I will never use politics in the pulpit. NEVER. There are some issues that are moral issues to me (abortion, for example) that are not in that line of thought but I will never endorse or talk politics (Rep/Dem stuff) from the pulpit. And I prefer to talk about Jesus than Trump/Biden/BLM/etc. Just MHO

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Jesus is definitely the ultimate subject matter so you can’t go wrong there, Bill. You make a good point of distinguishing between politics per se versus the actual issues. The issues are the important thing. That’s the approach my pastor takes, too.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      And I always need those reminders. Especially in this season. 🙂 The book really was full of good advice that can be applied to ANY types of conversations, not just political ones. I enjoyed it completely.

  2. Jed

    Such great thougs and an excellent reminder that two people can disagree and still have excellent conversation. I don’t mind talking politics and enjoy it when our talk is a good discussion / debate of ideas. Often, when talking about different ideas the two of us will realize our oppenios are closer than we first realized.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      The author used a lot of role-play conversations in the book to demonstrate discussions when people disagree. It felt a little corny at first listening in on “Kevin” and “Celine”. 🙂 But it was helpful.

      And yes, we do often find that we agree on more than we disagree when it gets down to our core values. It helps me to remember that when I’m talking with loved ones over things we don’t see eye to eye on. Thanks, Jed.

  3. Lois Flowers

    Lisa, your childhood dinner table sounds a lot like mine, although I don’t think my mom ever retreated to the kitchen to wash dishes! I think I’ve mentioned this to you before, but I so appreciate how you share your opinions and then engage in the comments with people who may not agree. This book sounds good and your final points so helpful. It’s tempting for me to say, “Yeah, I wish more people were like that,” but then I think, “Um, how about I start with myself?”

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      My mom was always so uncomfortable when my dad would discuss controversial topics, especially during Bible classes at church. 🙂 Their personality types were very different. But each of their approaches taught me things. (I even wish I was more eager to wash dishes like my mom, ha.)

      And yes, your final question hits home to me too: am I starting with myself? It’s easier to see the speck in someone else’s eye than the log in my own. That’s been my memory verse the past few weeks and it definitely hits home.

  4. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Someone’s gonna win the race,
    and someone’s gonna lose.
    Some folks will respond with grace
    and some will scream the blues
    while setting dumpster trash afire,
    graffito’ing in style thought cool,
    words meant to incite, inspire
    but are quite unreadable.
    And overhead, the stars still shine
    in a sky of blue-black ice,
    and I will choose to live what’s mine,
    I have no days to sacrifice
    (with or without my consent)
    upon altar of the argument.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Words of wisdom from you once again, Andrew. Great sentiments. May we each do likewise, sacrificing none of our precious time screaming at the altar of the argument. I need to keep this imagery in my mind when I’m tempted to focus down instead of up.

  5. Barbara Harper

    Your parents sound like my husband and me. 🙂 My husband doesn’t get into fiery discussions, usually, but he’s not afraid to talk about controversial issues. He can do so without getting heated, but it seems a lot of people get heated over every difference these days. He loves politics–I can’t stand it. 🙂

    When an online friend and I met in person, I knew we were on different sides of a theological issue. My modus operandi is not to bring things like that up, especially in person. But she asked me about it at our first in-person meeting! 🙂 I explained my views and she hers, and that was the end of it. We don’t feel a need to bring it up and debate it at every get-together. Now, if I felt she was deceived or mistaken about salvation, who Jesus is, etc., I’d pray about a way to discuss it further. I tend to shrink back even from those kinds of discussions, but God convicts me that I need to speak out about some things.

    I’m better at discussing things in writing, because I have time to think and let any emotions simmer down before responding. I’m not as good at on-my-feet thinking. But in person, we can gauge reactions, body language, tone, etc., that are missing in print. I need to let God nudge me out of my comfort zone more often and trust Him for the words.

    One of my sons is on the opposite political fence than we are. I get a little nervous that a political disagreement is going to come between us. But so far, he and his dad have been able to have reasonable discussions. And, as you said, often those discussion reveal much more is agreed on than not. We want the same things–we just differ in how to go about it.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, you do sound like my parents, Barbara. We noticed an interesting change in her, though, as she got deeper into Alzheimer’s–she began letting my dad know when he was going on too long. 😉

      I would have felt awkward too if someone I just met brought up a key difference right off the bat. It sounds like you both handled it with grace. Sometimes the best thing to do on matters that don’t really matter is to do like you did: let that be the end of it.

      We disagree with some of our close family members on political matters as well; when we all talked about it 4 years ago, it didn’t go well, so we basically don’t talk about it at all now. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. ha. But at least we’re all still friends. 🙂

  6. Martha Jane Orlando

    I grew up in a family that did talk a lot of politics, and I’m sure that’s where I first became interested in following that in the news. However, as I got older, and my opinions changed, my poor mom couldn’t accept it. Every time the family would get together, she would “start in” with some polarizing political comment. My dad, ever the peacemaker, would gently remind her that now was not the time nor the place. Since he passed away, good ol’ mom is now free to vent. I simply let it blow over, but I do think reading this book would be helpful in dealing more positively with the situation.
    Blessings, Lisa!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Sounds like you have some interesting visits with your mom, Martha! If my dad hadn’t passed away before my mom, he could have likely really cut loose with his opinions even more. 🙂 I remember he and his own mother having heated discussions over religion when we would visit my grandmother at Christmas. It made me tense at the time, but now I’d like to pay better attention to see what their points were. ha

  7. Lauren

    Yes, indeed, whatever happened to the skill of being able to disagree agreeably?

    I’m at a point of being incredibly worn down by the entire political scene and shenanigans in our country right now. Taking a break from the news this week has helped (although I did record the debate last night and will try to watch with my husband when he’s home later), but I still feel so frustrated and discouraged by the lack of civil discourse right now.

    My go-to tactic for avoiding overly heated discussions is, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse, avoidance. But in this currently very divided country of ours, I’m finding myself put on the spot more often, usually because someone either wants me to agree with their perspective 100% or because they already assume that I do.

    One weekend this past summer, I listened to strongly held and intense perspectives from two friends with very opposite political perspectives, one on Friday, one on Saturday. By Sunday, I felt utterly exasperated and exhausted. There was literally no room for true discussion without alarm from the other parties if I didn’t fully agree with them on all points. So I remained quiet about my actual opinions. Sigh.

    I obviously need some better, and at the same time respectful, ways to handle such “discussions,” and I’m very intrigued by the sound of this book, especially based on the samples tips you shared. Will be reading this one for sure!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, it is very draining, Lauren. Watching the debate last night was particularly so. Sigh. I almost quit watching several times, but I did persevere to the end (can I get a medal?).

      Sometimes avoidance is the best I can offer when someone is really belligerent about their views. We each have to know our own limits and it’s more important for me to maintain a long-term relationship than engage in a hot battle that will blow it apart. There are certain people I avoid on Facebook so that I can remain friends with them in “real life.” We each do what we have to do! Blessings to you as you handle your discussions also. And good luck if you go back and watch the debate. 😉

  8. Lynn D. Morrissey

    Lisa, a wonderful post, and confirms to me something I’m going to write for an online women’s prayer group. I write about journaling, and my title was to be Dialogue. this nails it! I am finding FB is NOT the place for political dialogue (b/c it is rarely that); and also, I am finding that the most innocuous posts on my part get turned political by others. I know if I am trying to be political, and in these cases I am not. Dialogue, not seeing other people as enemies, and ever honoring them as God’s image-bearers is the only way out of this. Sadly, though, it is not happening. I pray we are not past the point of no return. God bless you in your efforts here. Always so much appreciated.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I would love to see what you write for your group, Lynn, if it would be okay and if it’s in a format you wouldn’t mind sending me. Your topic on dialogue sounds encouraging, and don’t we all need encouragement right now. I know it will be good!

      I join you in praying that we are not past the point of no return. I am trying not to get anxious about what will happen in November–not just who wins, but how the country responds to who wins or who loses. We need to unite, regardless of the winner, and come together to fix things, not make things worse. With the Lord’s guidance, I know we can do this, if we’re willing to acknowledge each other’s hurts and help our country heal.

  9. Lynn D. Morrissey

    Of course, and thank you for the compliment. I’ll tell you though it will likely be different from what you expect! 🙂 Not sure when it will be done. Because of my constant dizziness, the group is patient w/ me, and I no longer adhere to a monthly writing schedule for them. 🙂 And yes, post election is just as important as “pre.” I pray the results are clear, if however late they are finally tallied, and that there will be no challenge. And I must stop anticipating riots in the streets over election results (one way or the other), and, with you, ask God for healing and reconciliation–not just amongst Christians, but one and all.

    Sending much love and untold appreciation.

  10. Laurie

    I did watch the debate Tuesday night, and I must admit, the thought of talking to my neighbor about it at the mailbox gives me the cold sweats! I do enjoy talking politics up to a point. So many people these days can’t separate their political views from their identity. If we don’t agree with their views, they take it as a personal attack on them. I need to learn to figure out how to engage and when to avoid. I (almost) always avoid on social media. The very few times I don’t, I usually regret it! It’s then that I remind myself to reflect Christ’s love and grace.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You hit the nail on the head with this, Laurie: “So many people these days can’t separate their political views from their identity. If we don’t agree with their views, they take it as a personal attack on them.” I need to examine my own heart to make sure I’m no doing this myself. Thanks, friend.

  11. Patti Gardner

    I refuse to talk politics! It’s the main reason I got off Facebook. The anger, name-calling, and hatred just stress me out. Truly, when situations get contentious, I feel my anxiety building. So, of course, I didn’t watch the debate. I knew it would be contentious.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Contentious is definitely a word I would use to describe the debate. Hopefully they’ll restructure so it will be less so next time. The last thing we need now is more stress! ha. My mother would be right there with you about getting off Facebook now if she were still here. She never liked talking about politics either. Thanks for stopping in, Patti.

  12. Mary Geisen

    I did not watch the debate because I knew I would not be able to stomach it. I love that your dad taught you how to debate in love. I can see you engaging in the converation and learning from your dad. The book is very timely for all of us to learn the art of conversation and debating and still remaining friends.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Sometimes I have more of my dad in me than I like. ha. He loved a good discussion. Yes, the book Beyond Your Bubble has principles that apply to any area of disagreement. The examples they used in the book were on abortion, climate change, politics, etc., but we each could add our own individual areas.

  13. Joanne Viola

    I tend to share my thoughts only with those close to me, even though we may not always agree. But the discussion is lively and we all end up with much to think on afterwards. I love the final points you shared from the book especially – “Ask questions from a place of curiosity rather than judgment.” Thank you for this timely post.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I mainly have these conversations lately only with those very closest to me, and mostly those who are on the same page. Times are definitely shaky right now and I don’t want to add to the firestorm. 🙁

  14. Donna

    Lisa, such good advice. Politics is so volatile especially these days. What ever happened to agreeing to disagree? I don’t mind having a robust discussion (like your Dad!) but it should be respectful. It seems there are fewer people around who enjoy a good discussion even about things they may not agree on. I have found coming into a discussion with one point of view and leaving with another because I was open to hearing other points of view. Sometimes I learn things, and sometimes I find out I wasn’t as well informed on a topic as I thought. I love the highlights and principles of this book. Good healthy dialogue fosters personal growth. Thank you!!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, the “respectful” ingredient in discussions is often what’s missing, and what makes them turn ugly. 🙁 I like to learn things as well and if we only talk to those who think like we do, we miss out on those learning opportunities (even though I’m still more comfortable talking about things I agree with than things I don’t! ha). I appreciate your attitude and I believe we could have some healthy dialogues ourselves. 😉

  15. Karen Friday

    Lisa, thanks for sharing your story of your Sunday lunches and your dad’s love of fiery discussions. This book sounds like such fresh insight. We have lost all sense of discussing things in a cival way…along with common courtesy, social maners, and so on.

    I like the thoughts that we don’t have to always have dialogue with others we disagree with and to “stay engaged in a positive direction. I try to dig underneath the anger (theirs and mine!)”

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Well, I feel like I’ve failed since I published this post. 🙂 I’ve had two different discussions (one in person and one online) that didn’t go as smoothly as I would have liked. Nothing horrible, but I would have preferred better. I’m still a work in progress.

  16. mariel

    yes, just because you CAN have dialogue doesn’t mean you must! There are definitely some people who can disagree well and some who cannot. we must be discerning who it is we are choosing to discuss certain topics with! 😉 great, timely post. thank you for sharing!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I had to take this advice to heart about NOT engaging someone this weekend. I had to remind myself (actually my daughter reminded me, thank you!) that it’s important to have boundaries. She pointed me to a friend’s post who had set healthy boundaries in this area and it really helped me say “no more” to a conversation that was getting nowhere. Sometimes our best efforts to be cordial aren’t reciprocated. 😉 And I don’t need to be tempted unnecessarily myself to let things get out of hand!

  17. Bev @ Walking Well With God

    I like the author’s suggestion of “digging under the anger.” I was having a political discussion with a friend. We have differing opinions. I sensed her anger starting to escalate. Instead of becoming defensive, I continued to ask more questions. What surfaced was a hidden fear about the future. This provided the perfect door for me to walk through to guide the discussion to where our confidence and comfort about the future comes from – from Jesus and not a polital figure. What ensued was a really deep discussion about faith. You never know where a potential argument might lead you. So glad I popped by…
    Bev xx

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Sounds like you handled that conversation with such grace, Bev! I love talking to people like you. 🙂 I’ve recently been thinking through the AHEN approach for myself: When ANGRY, look for the HURT to find the unmet EXPECTATION of a NEED. I’m glad you popped by too, friend.

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