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There I go again—spouting out my opinions about politics, and succeeding only in offending someone, or pushing away another friend. Maybe the old folk wisdom is right: “Don’t discuss religion or politics!” It’s so hard to find someone who agrees with me 100%! Do I have to just shut up and wallow in my frustration alone? Will I ever find somebody that will agree with me on everything?
Well, no! That’s not going to happen! Politics is controversial, complicated, and dynamic. You may find someone who will agree with some of your ideas. But there are as many opinions and as many beliefs and convictions on every issue as there are people on the Earth (about 8 billion.) The odds are you will never find that person who agrees with you totally!
So why do we argue? Paradoxically, I believe that we argue because we’re actually trying to explore and discover a reasonable position and common ground on all the world’s complex and complicated political situations. We’re trying to find what we should believe, and what we should do about it. The problem is there’s not just one right thing to believe, and not just one right thing to do. It’s unfortunate that in our world today we’re encouraged to take sides, and polarize our beliefs—Democrats and Republicans, religious beliefs, sex and age differences. We each want to find out where we stand, and to take a strong stand and defend it, rather than trying to look for common ground and find solutions that work for all. Hey, it’s only exciting and rousing when it’s controversial. Dog bites man? No story there. Man bites dog: Now there’s a story! Ever notice how many negative news stories there are as opposed to positive stories in the news? When you listen to various ideological or political groups, do you notice the extreme position most of them take on issues? The “middle of the road” seems to be dull or unemotional. Isn’t it better to try to find the right thing to do, than to point fingers and draw lines in the sand?
What can you do? How can we have friendly, cooperative, meaningful and productive conversations with friends, relatives, or others, about politics and important issues? Here are some things to try.
Change your goal. Instead of trying to win and convince others that your opinion is right, try to understand their perspectives and look for things you can agree on.
Before you spout out your opinion without hearing or knowing theirs, ask them questions and try to fully understand theirs, and the reasons for their point of view.
Try switching sides. Suggest a debate, where you defend the other’s point of view.
Don’t point fingers, draw a line in the sand, or choose sides. Finding common ground, a mutually agreeable solution, is better than compromising your beliefs out of weakness. Cooperate rather than compete. Try for a win-win situation. Can’t we all come together with more respect and appreciation for humanity?
By Bob Denny, Licensed Mental Health Counselor. I’ve been writing my column for about 3 years. Should I continue? What issues would you like to see addressed? Please share your ideas and feedback at Bob.Denny8@gmail.com or phone me at (386) 454-4950.