Politics has always been a tough topic of conversation, and it is often among the topics etiquette experts tell us to avoid at family get-togethers, along with religion and telling people how to raise their children. A seemingly innocent foray into a political discussion can escalate into a yelling match in a matter of seconds when people’s views are at opposite ends of the political spectrum and nobody has any interest in listening to what the other person has to say. It becomes easier to just not talk about politics, or to only talk politics with people who share your views and that only pushes us further into a little bubble where we can’t imagine anyone else differing in opinion on political issues or on a given candidate or politician. We forget that there are other points of view, other ways of doing things, other systems even, and we forget to challenge and question where our own views are coming from. Did we inherit our political views from our parents? Or did we come to these conclusions through careful study? How much influence does the media have on our views? Where exactly are we getting our information about politics? From experts? From friends? From a guy who posts videos on social media?
How to Talk Politics without Arguing by Constantinos E. Scaros, JD, PhD, offers an easy-to-read guide for approaching political discussions, and starts off with a preface introducing himself and explaining why readers should take his advice. It should be noted that along with his academic credentials, Scaros is a regular contributor to The National Herald and served as Executive Editor for a time. He explains his background, education, and experience, and makes his case with examples from history and more recent events, and reminds us of the innate goodness of our fellow human beings or at least most of them, and the need for good manners. The “first step” to discussing politics without arguing is the phrase “I think I’m right, but I could be wrong,” Scaros writes, noting that it “captures the spirit of intellectual honesty and integrity,” opening the door to a civilized discussion with “mutual respect” for all those participating. Readers are prompted to think of five times they were wrong about something in order to remind them that they have made mistakes in the past, and being wrong is sometimes a good thing, as when Scaros feared he might fail a class in law school and miss graduation, but was quite happy to be proven wrong.
How to Talk Politics also features a section titled Explaining Politics to Children by Amanda Keating, a licensed psychologist, board-certified behavior analyst and parenting expert who offers her insights, including “perspective taking: putting themselves in another’s shoes,” which can also apply to adults.
The pandemic has certainly affected the ways we communicate with each other these days and technology has made it so easy to share angry opinions instantly and mostly without consequences, so the tips relating to good manners are particularly relevant. Not being insulting or judgmental seems like solid advice in general and not just for political discussions, but how many of our family and friends can actually refrain from being insulting or judgmental is another story entirely. Explaining how to talk about politics might just set them off on another rant and some people just love to argue- whether they’re right or wrong is beside the point.
How to Talk Politics without Arguing by Constantinos E. Scaros is available online.