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?
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 discussions: Beyond Your Bubble: How to Connect Across the Political Divide, Skills and Strategies for Conversations That Work.
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
- 4 Books I Recommend—September 2020
- On the Blog—September 2020