. . . with the election season in full swing, I figured this was good to post . . .
The Good Neighbor Guide to Discussing Politics Online and Face-to-Face.
We are just one month away from the Presidential Election . . . and we are so excited! Everyone is just in love with these two candidates we have! So before we get too excited and possibly go overboard with our interactions with each other, here are a few guidelines that can help us remain good neighbors with each other . . .
1. It is good to remember that hate is a word that we save for people who murder. It does not apply to people who disagree with us. So it is entirely wrong to assume that someone who disagrees with us has hate in their heart. Actually it has nothing to do with their heart - it is called an idea and it is located in the brain. Just because it is different doesn't mean it is wrong.
2. Speaking of ideas, everyone has them. Just because yours are different does not mean that other people are idiots. Even idiots have ideas. In fact, idiocy thrives when we shut down other people's thoughts. So we want to do everything we can to provide a safe environment for people to share ideas - even weak ones - because sharing ideas helps us strengthen the good ones and get rid of the bad ones. Good relationships lead to good ideas. Bad relationships shut down sharing and cause people to drown in their own bad ideas.
3. Speaking of sharing, we seem to have lost the art of conversation. A conversation is a dialogue between two people. It is never one-sided and it usually involves two people discovering something together through sincere questions. This means listening (more on this later) and learning from each other. The word conversation comes from an old Latin term meaning 'to live with.' Imagine having all your conversations in such a way that you have to live with this person after the conversation is over. Dropping the mic is so last year. Conversation and 'de-friending' are contrary terms.
4. When you want to start a conversation, seek people that are different than you. It makes for a very interesting dialogue. Ask them questions with the intention of learning from them. This doesn't mean you have to agree, but it does mean that you have to listen. This way you either strengthen your current ideas or you discard the ones that are weak.
5. When you enter into conversations, try to make it a rule to listen more than you talk. The Bible is clear: Be quick to listen and slow to anger. You will not learn anything new when you are the one speaking. Even if it is something that you completely disagree with, make a pact with your mouth that it just stays shut. Ask probing and reflective questions: "so what you are saying is . . ." or "I think your point is . . ." The key is humility - every conversation is an opportunity to learn, not win an argument.
6. Which brings us to arguments. An argument is not a fight. An argument is a noun - it is and idea formulated in your head about an issue. In fourth grade I had an excellent argument for not doing homework, but I never used it as a weapon. I never said to Mrs. Hartman "so basically it is this bigoted, childphobic and oppressive patriarchal homework system that keeps you coming here every day with a twisted smile on your face, isn't it?" I would have been spanked.
7. Which really brings us to the point of conversations. Conversations are not contests. When you realize that you can learn from every encounter, conversations become adventures. Imagine yourself as a raider of other people's intellect. Some have great treasures and others, not so much. But you will always benefit from a conversation if you consider it as a plundering opportunity. "I am going to learn as much as I can from this person" is how successful conversations take place. You grow smarter when you listen.
8. Which brings us to manners. When you are talking about something that is sensitive, be sensitive. For example: "Well, maybe the girl who got shot shouldn't have been selling drugs. I've never seen anyone get shot doing homework at his kitchen table" shows horrible manners. When in doubt, ask questions. Maybe, "So what is the story on this young woman?" Or how about, "Maybe I am missing the point, but it seems like a lot of this happens around violent activities - how can we work on getting young people out of this kind of violence?"
9. Over-communicate your kindness. Since face-to-face enables people to hear your tone and read your face, you have to go extra with your online postings. In our culture we need people who reach, not preach. So instead of, "Donald Trump is gross and people who vote for him are gross" maybe something more like "Help me understand the attraction to people like Donald Trump. Obviously people like him for some reason - what are your reasons?"
10. When you disagree, start with the assumption that maybe you don't understand something. This is a golden rule. It applies to every conversation: Teachers, Spouses, Friends, the Police. Instead of, "guns don't kill people, people kill people" how about, "so I don't know that much about the statistics, but would violent crime really go down if we got rid of guns? Wouldn't criminals still find ways to hurt people?"
It really all comes down to a few of assumptions. You can learn from everyone. You can be kind to everyone. You can change the culture. You don't like what you see online? Change it. Be the person who starts your next conversation with, "I know they tell us we can't get along and have different ideas, but I don't think that is true . . . tell me what you think is in those 30,000 emails."
It's a start.