How to Have Respectful Conversations About Politics

The current political scene in the U.S. is unlike any I’ve seen before. Candidates and issues are garnering unprecedented amounts of attention.

Here are some great things for all of us to keep in mind so our political discussions remain respectful and productive.

Regardless of if you are liberal or conservative, it’s likely you will find yourself discussing some political issue with family members or friends in the coming months. Here are some great things for all of us to keep in mind so these discussions remain respectful and productive.

Guidelines for discussing politics

  • Share your thoughts in order to benefit those who listen. We have a lot of different motivations for engaging in political discourse. We need to check these motivations to make sure they are appropriate. The Bible teaches that we should share helpful things that build up and benefit the listener (Ephesians 4:29). This means that sharing in order to express anger, to show others that they are wrong, or to make ourselves sound smart is inappropriate.
  • Take time to listen. As we share with the right motivation, we also need to take time to listen (James 1:19). When we listen, it demonstrates that we are humble and that we care about the perspectives of others. Additionally, we might learn and become wiser as a result of the things we hear (Proverbs 19:20).
  • Assume that people have good reasons for holding their opinions. When we give people the benefit of the doubt, it is so much easier to tolerate their divergent opinions. This doesn’t necessarily mean that we begin sharing their opinions, but it does mean we can be respectful of them and understand their perspectives. Once we have this understanding, we are often able to engage in conversations that are more productive and meaningful.
  • Remember that there is a difference between an issue and the people who support it. It’s easy to have similar feelings towards an issue and the people who support it. For example, we may begin feeling similar disdain for the supporters of abortion that we feel for the practice of abortion. We shouldn’t let this happen. We must always love people (Matthew 22:35-40), even if we disagree with their stances on certain issues.
  • Don’t pass along information unless you know it is true. The spreading of rumors and misinformation by well-meaning and sometimes malicious individuals seems to be an inevitability during political campaigns. Before I share that blurb that came across my Facebook newsfeed or you share that tidbit you overheard at work, we need to check to see if they are accurate. This not only keeps us from looking like fools if the information turns out to be false, but it helps us obey the Biblical teaching to avoid spreading false reports (Exodus 23:1).
  • Know when to stop the conversation. Just because you are following these guidelines when discussing politics doesn’t mean you are conversing with someone who is using a similar approach. He or she may be disrespectful and unwilling to engage in meaningful discourse. When this occurs, sometimes the best thing to do is to agree to disagree and then move on. This may save you a lot of time and frustration!

Do you think these are helpful things to remember when discussing politics? What would you add?

Shared at the following link parties:

Monday’s Musings, Tuesday Talk, Coffee and Conversation, Faith Filled Wednesday, Grace and Truth, and Titus 2 Tuesday.

Comments

  1. These are all excellent tips! I usually don’t engage in anything political-discussion related because so many people I know are so volatile in how they talk politics. I think my favorite aspect of this list is the “assume that people have good reasons for their opinions”-I think it’s so good to recognize that people we disagree with politically are smart, and most likely aren’t subscribing to a certain belief or ideology for no reason. When we actually take the time to have rational, peaceful discussions with others, I’ve noticed that we many times hold the same values-we may just go about implementing those values differently. I have plenty of friends who hold political stances far from my own, but there are so many key things that we can agree on and work together on improving. So many times, politics turns into an “us vs. them,” but I’ve found it much better-at least in my life-to focus on how we can work together and talk about common values and concerns.

    • I think your thought that “we many times hold the same values-we may just go about implementing those values differently” is spot on, AnneMarie.
      I believe this is often the case. Once we listen to each other, we can identify these commonalities! I agree with you that working together off of these will get us somewhere while the “us vs. them” mentality will not.

  2. I love how specific you got here! 😉

  3. Your points are so wise and well articulated, Shannon. I especially liked this: “When we give people the benefit of the doubt, it is so much easier to tolerate their divergent opinions.” We tend to get so emotionally involved and jump to conclusions. This does nothing for the cause of Christ and hurts our testimony. Great tips!

    • Hi Ruthie,
      We do get emotionally involved and start assuming things that may or may not be true. It’s so critical that we listen and respond lovingly.

  4. Oh goodness, I wish more people would follow tip #5! It feels like more and more people are either far left or far right and not willing to even consider the other side. It’s exhausting. Thanks so much for trying to foster respectfulness and kindness!

    • Hi Leslie,
      It can be exhausting. We really shouldn’t have to get to that point, though. Being kind and respectful isn’t that difficult! 🙂

  5. We are just about to have elections for our parliament here in Scotland, so this is also timely for me. And we see a lot of the run up to the American election on the news 🙂 I appreciate you giving specific Biblical references to demonstrate your points- thank you for sharing this!

    • Hi Gwen,
      We’re so blessed that the Bible really does show us what we need in order to communicate peacefully! If only we’d listen… 😉

  6. Yes! Your points are spot on. I think the problem is many of us have made up our minds and think the other side is wrong. So we preach to change minds when we should listen and share to have understanding. Thanks for this important and timely post! Blessings!

  7. These are very helpful tips! I especially think it’s important to check our motives before we say anything or engage in these conversations. Things can get heated fast. I try to avoid political conversations, but I’ll be keeping your wise words in mind if I find myself in one.
    Thank you for linking with Grace and Truth last week.

    • Hi Dawn,
      Yes, these conversations can escalate before we realize what is happening. Checking our motives is a great way to avoid getting in these heated situations.

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