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Column: How to talk about elections with others
Shannon Casas
Shannon Casas

Nov. 8 is Election Day — or as some might put it, the last day we have to put up with Herschel Walker and Raphael Warnock advertisements

There’s a lot on the ballot both statewide and locally — which is a little different here in Hall County where local races don’t always see a candidate from the Democrat Party.

So, are you avoiding all conversations about politics? Or talking with just your circle of like-minded friends about politics? I’ve got a few tips for talking politics with those on the (gasp!) other side.

Talk with them

It’s hard. It’s exhausting. Obviously, their opinion is wrong, and maybe you don’t want to lose a friendship over politics or get in another fight with your grown kid. But here’s the thing — we can get smarter when we hear other perspectives. And, yes, we probably get stupider when we don’t hear other perspectives.

And the biggest point: If we talk just with people who agree with us, we’ll keep deepening the divisions that are tearing our country apart. But does it feel like talking politics just highlights all the divisions? Let’s try changing how the conversation goes..

Make space and time for that conversation

If you’re going to talk politics, be ready for it. Don’t try to do it in a rush. Don’t do it when you’re exhausted from a long day. Don’t lob a comment and then leave — whether in person or on social media. Make a commitment of time and energy if you want this to be productive and not just frustrating.

Work to understand, not change minds

Here’s the secret key: Go into the conversation curious. You’re not there to change their mind. I know — they’re wrong. How could they possibly believe that? Why can’t they see the truth? What’s the point of this conversation if we’re not going to convince them they’re wrong? Understanding. Let’s ask them how they could believe that. They might surprise you.

Realize they have their reasons — and you may not know them

We all have our reasons for what we believe — our own path with its experiences and things we value as a result. But we tend to make assumptions about each other’s reasons. 

You voted that way because you want what’s best for your country, so they must have voted the other way because they want to destroy the country. 

The political ads and talking heads are pretty darn good at sowing that seed in our minds. 

If you haven’t asked someone who actually votes that way or believes that thing what their reasons are, you’re taking a dangerous shortcut and pretending you understand. 

Work to understand, not change minds

Are you reading carefully? I already said this. But now we’ve asked for reasons and maybe we think those reasons are dumb. Now we want to argue. Stay curious, instead. Remember, you’re not hear to change their mind. You’ve asked how they believe that. Now ask another question. Hopefully they’re doing the same, too. I’m not saying you can’t share your thoughts, just value curiosity over being right.

Ponder and learn

I’ve changed my mind on at least a few pretty major issues over time. It did not happen in the course of one conversation. It happened over the course of years — years that were spent broadening my perspective with experience, reading, thinking and probably a heated conversation or two somewhere in between. Engaging the other side hopefully led you to learn something new, even if you’re both still on your same sides. And maybe engaging the other side leaves you more curious. Maybe you need to do a little more research to solidify the foundation of what you believe — or maybe to start building a new foundation. This is all easier to write than do in practice. I’m trying to practice. I hope you will, too.

Shannon Casas is director of audience for Metro Market Media, parent company of The Times. She is a North Hall resident.