Talking Politics Without Losing Friends

Image credit: halahmoon (cc licensed)

Before I get into the meat of my thesis, I should say my goal in publishing this post is not to push any specific agenda about our current situation as a society. I have opinions on such matters, but they are not the point herein. My goal is merely to get all peace loving people on some manner of the same page as there is immense value to be created in doing so — Liberals, Conservatives, or otherwise. I want good lives for everyone and I’m writing this post solely for other people who want the same.

That said, as a society, we have come to a point where the state of the future will be largely decided by the choices we make and the mindsets we have today and in the very near future.

Those of all sides think and feel that their beliefs are indeed the truth and the views of others result mainly from illusions and deceptions.

However, by its very definition, there is only one truth. Some views are accurate, and some are illusions.

And so, if we as a society at large, are unable to see things as they really are, the result will likely be destructive and deadly — like a pilot, flying blind in a storm, without visibility or instruments with which he could safely land the plane and its passengers.

Yet, even among people who are looking for solutions but with whom we disagree on the path forward, I would estimate that many among them share the same root goal as I do (and you probably do) of a just society awash in peace and prosperity.

And on that common ground of peace and prosperity, lies the possibility to engage each other in civil and friendly discussion in order to figure out what’s true and what’s to be done about it — doing so as friends and family that care about each other, not different political parties out to defeat each other.

What I’m talking about is good old fashioned friendly chats with the shared goal of figuring out some serious shit.

Aren’t we willing to extend the same invitation for a conversation when we see friends and family come to a critical crossroads in life, whether it be personal problems, sicknesses, or relationships?

And if so, why are discussions regarding the wellness of our society relegated to heated debates and base judgments? And is our society not at such a critical crossroads? Can’t we talk it out?

Just like with the personal issues, these conversations are extremely useful for solving problems in general. They‘re not exactly easy, but when confronted with the stakes, and knowing the potential great value in such effort, I’ve found it hard to keep my mouth shut.

In my experience, in order to have such useful yet high stakes conversations, all that’s often required is consistent honesty and pleasantness. In return, most people with similar concerns are willing to talk. And I suspect the key to continued willingness to do so lies in a commitment to remaining on the aforementioned common ground — the bedrock of the shared desire for peace, prosperity and alignment with the truth that so many of us hold, and on which we can all work to assess what has gone wrong and how we might fix it.

Aversion to such uncomfortable conversations is normal and natural. We evolved to stay out of conflict with members of our tribe. To do so in spite of that aversion requires vulnerability and the potential to for getting hurt and damaging relationships. However, in my experience the pain ends relatively quickly, but the benefits and satisfaction experienced from forcing oneself to have such crucial conversations are lasting and significant both personally and for the relationship.

Take for example this post — I feel some discomfort putting it on the internet and sending it to friends and family knowing that it very well could be off the mark of useful commentary. I don’t think that it is, but I know that doesn’t mean that it’s actually not. But, I know that if it’s not well received, I’ll probably live. And any resulting discomfort will be fleeting compared to the discomfort of wondering whether or not I should have said anything at all.

And upon receiving any critical feedback, I will do my best not to recoil to the comfort of my mental file folder of defenses to form a rebuttal — Instead, I intend to force myself as best I can to feel the uncomfortable shadow cast upon me by a view of the world that runs counter to my own, listen to my gut, and then give it a proper assessment as to its logical and factual basis. In my experience, a few seconds of uncomfortable pondering is all it takes.

Although uncomfortable, such pondering as to the validity of any idea won’t cause injury — Nor will acknowledging and addressing an error in thought. Being wrong isn’t bad. There are no thought crimes, and nor is there shame in changing one’s mind. A newly discovered error in thinking does not equate with ignorance unless one refuses to correct it.

Correspondingly, being right won’t win any medals on its own virtue. A more accurate measure of success in such an endeavor is not who’s most often right or who’s least often wrong; success ought to be measured solely by how many additional people become aligned with the truth, whatever the truth happens to be. 
And so, I’m making this post as a call to action for the initiation of honest and good-natured conversation among those with the common aims of more peace, more prosperity, and further discovery and alignment of the truth.

As for our current state of affairs, clearly we are deep in the woods — And if we can accurately see things as they are, we’ll more easily see the way out of it.

I reckon that most will agree that poverty, violence, division, and a general grinding down of the everyman to the benefit of the powerful are all great sources of strife in today’s society. While I sometimes find myself angry or frustrated towards those with differing viewpoints, such anger is a waste. It only serves to pour my precious energy and limited time down the drain while simultaneously benefiting only those who seek to build themselves up at everyone else’s expense.

Instead, I suggest that the vast majority of us, who share the same goals of more peace and more prosperity, should use our energy wisely and strategically — By talking to or emailing friends and family, explaining why we feel that such discussions are worthwhile and pointing out the ways in which we’re very likely have the same ends in mind. And in doing so, by prefacing any specific viewpoints or specific proposed solutions with the suggestion or observation of common ground, and only then explaining the reasoning for such specific opinions, I highly suspect that significantly more open discussion can be achieved than could have been otherwise.

As for specific strategies for engaging discussions — Some potential strategies include: a general spirit of friendliness throughout, letting facts speak for themselves without relish in what they point out, including links to articles, videos, podcasts, etc. that best explain your views of the matter at hand, consideration of one’s specific interests and preferences for discussion, acknowledgment that you very well may be wrong accompanied by asking for feedback as to how you may be, and above all, the establishment of and focus on common goals and values up front and throughout.

And in doing so in such a manner, I have often been surprised at how often I’ve received a similarly kind and often appreciative response in return, even from those with whom I’ve disagreed.

In regards to those that do disagree, while it’s often not my knee-jerk reaction to do so, I find that responding directly to criticisms in the same jovial and common-ground-and-truth-focused manner in which I initiated the conversation goes a long way to keeping it alive and useful. I try and point out mistakes in logic just like I would hope a friend would do for me when upon seeing me exiting form a restroom with my pants unbuttoned. It’s a bit embarrassing, but like just being wrong, nobody really needs to care much about it, and I’m better off having learned.

To those that agree with my specific perspective, I will respond in turn with the case for why they should do the same and continue the dissemination useful ideas by reaching out to their friends and family with a similar appeal for honest conversation.

Should enough people succeed in encouraging their friends and family to to do the same who then in turn encourage even more to follow suit, the results will become exponential quite quickly. I believe that such a result would serve to drastically increase the percentage of people who begin interacting on terms of common ground, further resulting in a greater percentage of people aligned towards truth. And I would suggest that the result of such a significant change in mindset would result in overall significantly less strife, less division, and an overall greater ability to solve today’s problems.

The eventual result of such a change in mindset cascading throughout humanity is one that is significantly more pleasant for everyone involved on all sides — A true win-win for humanity with the only losers being those who seek to exploit it for their own gain.

Additionally and fortunately, this effect can be set in motion and achieved quite quickly and virally with no more investment than the time and the mental energy required to write a few well thought out emails to your friends and family.

All said, I’m sure that the ideas herein can be refined and improved upon. I look forward to hearing any feedback of any variety. That said, please remember that you and I probably want the same thing — PEACE, PROSPERITY, AND COMMITMENT TO FINDING THE TRUTH! =D

We are still deep in the woods, but I believe that there is a way out, so long as enough people can unite behind our common interests, map out the way, and help clear a path.

If this post made sense and you found it useful, please subscribe to my personal website, via which I aim to share the most useful & rational information I can find. Also, if you have a friend with whom you’d like to converse about important matters, sending a link to this post might be a useful way to break the ice and set the table for further discussion.