Here's How To Argue With Your Friends About Politics
I have a love-hate relationship with Texas.
When I see Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings handing out flowers to detained immigrants and offering a personal apology, my heart beams with pride.
When I see Ted Cruz approving Trump's cabinet picks, however, I'm ashamed to be associated with the state.
However, being a Texan is forever at the core of who I am, and of course I still have friends who live in the state.
This weekend, my best friend from high school, let's call her Alex, and I, discussed a topic we've been disagreeing about since our high school days: abortion.
In this political atmosphere, even families are being ripped apart by Trump vs. non Trump support. Friendships are even easier to cut ties with, but both Alex and I were determined to have a discussion that also included respect.
By the end of it, we still disagreed ultimately, but had more insight into the other person's perspective. We even were able to meet in the middle.
Here's how we did it:
1. Acknowledge privilege before you say anything.
Before any kind of political disagreement begins, you must acknowledge privilege.
I had a hard time responding to any of Alex's points that fell along the lines of, "I do this, why can't the rest of America?" Or, "Why should I have to pay for someone's XYZ?"
Acknowledging privilege can mean many different things. It can be as broad as recognizing white privilege, but it has to happen. Recognizing privilege helps both parties start a debate with a nonjudgmental mind.
I reminded Alex that we were both lucky to have parents who cared what we did growing up, and supported us when we went to school and in our extra curricular activities. We also went to a communications arts magnet school, which definitely helped us be able to express ourselves more, and be more confident in our decisions.
I have a theory that if everyone grew up extremely confident, the world would be a much less hateful place. Confidence is, unfortunately, pretty rare, and we need to recognize that people in the world making uneducated decisions may be struggling with other internal issues.
2. End your introductory comment by saying, "I value your feedback and conversations, and I know I can share things with you."
Alex said this to me before we got into the debate at all, and I was extremely impressed by it.
The fact that she ended her opinion with this sentence, put the idea in my head immediately that we were starting off with equal respect. If you make it clear early on that no side is right or wrong, and you're willing to put respect first, the conversation begins on a positive note.
3. Think about where the other person is coming from.
Alex is a teacher who works with young children every day. She also works with parents, and recognizes that love can come from many different places in a child's life, even if their parents are having a hard time holding their responsibilities together.
I knew immediately to get my point across that I couldn't talk about abortion in terms of personal family situations. Therefore, I directed my points toward the belief that male representatives shouldn't make decisions about women's bodies.
4. You must use facts.
Saying, "I can pay why can't they?" is a statement that means nothing. Saying, "Americans spend X tax dollars every year on X, and here's why I don't agree with it," means so much more.
So many political arguments that turn heated are focused on personal opinions and beliefs, rather than facts that neither of you can debate.
Let's be better than the current president, here. Let's use REAL facts. (Shoutout to the believers of #alternativefacts.)
I truly believe Alex and I didn't get frustrated throughout this conversation because we used facts, and then checked each other's facts.
We're both religious, and didn't use God as an example for anything, which is, ahem, how government should run.
5. The unthinkable: feeling good at the end, even though you both still disagree.
Even though Alex and I never actually came to an agreement on abortion itself, we did end up agreeing that preventative care did seem like the best answer.
After considering that every woman's situation is different -- from home life to current level of stability-- we both realized cutting abortion access cannot also come with cutting birth control access.
We ended the conversation by again acknowledging how much we appreciated being able to talk to each other about things we disagreed on. That may sound like the most girly thing ever, but hey, the rest of America can take a hint from us women.
Debating without getting your feelings hurt is a valuable skill, and it's clearly one our current president has a hard time with. Now is the time to get real, and use facts and respect to communicate with the people you care most about.
May luck be ever on your side.