Let’s talk religion and politics—the two topics you’re never supposed to bring up in social situations.
Don’t worry; I’m not going to ask what you believe in, but I am wondering: Do you talk politics (or other hot-button topics) with your friends?
The Washington Post published a story last year citing a study that says Republicans have more friends from across the political aisle than Democrats, and this got me thinking. Why do we try so hard to steer away from hard conversations that might actually end up helping us grow?
I don’t mean “grow” in terms of changing political beliefs, but growing in the sense of attempting to understand why people feel the way they feel, without judgment. (It goes without saying that certain types of hate speech are beyond an attempt to understand, but I feel that’s a rare situation.)
I don’t line up politically with many people in my life whom I love dearly. And only in the past five years or so have I been able to really, truly mean it when I say, That’s okay. I’ve never compromised my beliefs or gone against what I feel is right, but in this process of listening, I have become a much gentler person.
But I wanted to ask this question because lately, it seems like people are less and less able to even hear the opinions of people with whom they don’t fully agree. And that, I believe, is dangerous.
My personal take on disagreeing with friends (or even acquaintances, coworkers or family) is that, Hey, it’s great if we are totally on the same page! But in no way do I believe the other person is bad, wrong, or misinformed if we don’t.
I have trained myself through my career in TV journalism—when I was regularly interviewing people with whom I didn’t agree politically, but forced to keep a professional demeanor—as well as my personal relationships to not look at someone as a pre-packaged set of beliefs, just because of what political party they belong to. What matters more to me is the person behind the beliefs—why they feel the way they feel, and trying to understand why they land where they land.
It’s exactly what’s behind this blog and podcast—true curiosity—that I have found has served me the best when it. comes to finding peace.
Moreover, this curiosity in both my professional and personal life has yielded an unexpectedly positive discovery: We’re actually a lot more alike than we are different.
People may explain their beliefs on an issue one way, or choose to identify themselves with a political label, but I bet if you ask what their motivation is for identifying in such a way, you’ll find a reason—or a grain of a reason—for it that is similar to what you feel.
I’m not asking you to switch your affiliations, your beliefs, or but I am asking that maybe sometime in the near future you choose a conversation that’s a little tough, all in the name of growth.
Ask that friend or that coworker or hell, maybe even a person on social media, who you know votes differently, or feels differently, why she does… what in her life informed her beliefs… and see what she says.
Prepare for emotion or maybe even defensiveness, but if they’re open to keep talking, just keep listening.
Sure, maybe your beliefs won’t change, but your ability to see your neighbors and friends in a kinder light just might, and that’s worth the momentary discomfort.