5 Tips For Discussing The Election With Your Parents, Because Things Are Getting Weirder
The 2016 presidential race is upon us, with caucuses and primaries popping off all over the country, and the likely nominees for each major party slowly taking shape. And, if you happen to be someone who comes from a politically informed or opinionated household ― or even one that isn't, for that matter ― you may have found that conversations about this bizarre election season are getting tricky lately. In that spirit, here are a few suggestions to bear in mind: 5 tips for discussing the election with your parents.
It doesn't matter if you're in perfect agreement with your folks about the state of American politics, if you're in stark, bristling disagreement, or if you're simpatico in some ways but strongly divided in others (the latter likely being a common position for many people).
Whatever form your discussion takes, from enthusiastic agreement to emotionally charged argument, there are some different strategies you can use to help keep things on the rails, and make sure nobody's feelings get too hurt. After all, some of the words and ideas swirling around this election season are inflammatory enough that things could get pretty heated, if you're not careful. Here are five tips you ought to bear in mind.
1. Pick Your Topics Carefully
One good thing to consider when you're about to start a conversation about the election, or even just politics in general: "Hey, is this the thing I really want to tackle?" The fact is, just like politicians in Washington, D.C. have limited amounts of political capital, and have to prioritize which policies are important to spend it on, you should consider being discriminating about which deep-dig political conversations you're going to have.
If you're going to be entering into a friendly chat about the presidential primaries, that's all well and fine. But if you're planning to dig into any areas of controversy, and you think there's going to be push-back from your parent? In short make sure that you're spending your emotional and intellectual energy on the things that really, deeply matter to you.
2. Don't Be Condescending
Look, sometimes you're going to feel like you just can't get through to someone, no matter how simple it all seems to you. This can be an even more frustrating feeling when you love and care about someone. But it's no surprise why ― beyond having different lives, backgrounds, and an entirely different set of experiences to draw upon, it's possible that your parents simply don't and won't ever see things your way.
But if you're trying to have a conversation in earnest and in good faith ― by which I mean, one that you hope could change their mind, or at the very least raise their awareness ― getting snippy or condescending is an instant communication killer. It's all too easy for people to disengage when they're feeling defensive, so do your best to stay even-keeled and respectful.
3. Lean On Areas Of Shared Agreement
Again, maybe you don't really have any of these with your parent or parents. But if you do, by all means, enjoy that fact! Not everyone is so lucky. And even if you're making a point in an argumentative way, occasionally bringing the conversation back to shared values or political ideals can help smooth things over.
For example, if you're a far-left progressive, and your parents are loyal readers of National Review, you can at the very least bond over your shared feelings of animus towards Donald Trump.
4. Get Down To First Principles
If you're stuck in what feels like a dead-end conversation about, say, health care reform ― let's say your parent doesn't like the Affordable Care Act, and wants a Republican president to fully repeal it, while you're more eager for a single-payer system ― try pulling the scope of the conversation back.
For instance: it's one thing to learn that someone doesn't support single-payer health care, but that tells you a lot less than why they don't. Is it because of concerns about the cost, and how it would impact tax rates? Is it because of fears about diminished quality of care?
Or is it more foundational? For instance, that they don't believe people should have a right or expectation that their health will supported by society, and would therefore oppose it regardless of the cost? By getting down to the first principles underneath your politics, you'll learn a lot more about whoever you're talking to.
5. Be Honest About The Urgency
If there are things about this election season that really disturb or worry you ― you know, the big existential issues, like police brutality, climate change, reproductive rights, racism, and of course, authoritarian impulses within America (you can probably guess who I'm talking about) ― don't feel like you need to play it cool.
Just be honest and straightforward about how important you think these issues are, and if there are things you know your parent similarly feels strongly about, bring those up to remind them how real political concerns can be in people's day-to-day lives. You may not be able to totally bridge the gap if you're starting from completely opposite points, but you might be able to recognize and respect your concerns ― and hey, maybe you'll get the same sense of them, too!