by Marit Vike; image courtesy of Olivia Chow
This past November, friendships ended, nasty words were spoken and there was no moving forward. These actions regrettably paved the way for 2017 to be the year of not talking about politics. So listen up, all activists out there. Here are some tried and true tips on how to overcome the discomfort and talk to a family member, coworker, neighbor or friend about politics this summer.
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From the beginning, keep an open mind and avoid the prejudgment involved in issuing blanket statements such as “all Republicans are evil.” If you want to talk about politics, you are likely passionate about a topic (say public education). Remember to stay away from professional jargon and politicalspeak. Your passion can help keep the conversation personal and intimate, but only if you avoid attempting to patronize or embarrass the other person and respect his or her viewpoint.
Once you have entered into a conversation, there are two general guidelines.
- Tell your story. Share the reasons for your passion (whether it’s students, your neighborhood public school or your students’ families). It can be the impact of a bill on your life, your love of the education profession or maybe a story about a student affected by budget cuts.
- Ask questions and LISTEN for the other person’s personal stories and passions. Point out common interests and values. Politics may seem like a dangerous topic, but vulnerability and honesty about values can make these some of the best discussions you have ever had.
So go into a conversation with an open mind, share your stories, ask open-ended questions, listen and learn about the other person’s passions. Maybe the conversation will end with agreeing to disagree, or maybe you found a new advocate for public schools. Either way, political conversations can have amazing benefits and carry very little risk.
Next activist tip of the summer post: Using town halls to your advantage.