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Political Conversation

Fwiw, I am voting for Joe Biden for President in November.

Simultaneously, if you’re not, I have no interest in arguing with you. I would rather spend time endeavoring to understand why you’re not.

No. Really.

I don’t argue about politics.

I can’t tell you how many people have voiced some version of this frustration to me: “No matter how hard I argue with [my friend, my father, my coworker], I can’t seem to change their mind. They refuse to get it.”

Can you recall ever going into a contentious conversation with the deliberate intention to simply listen to see what you could learn from someone whose stance on an issue you find disturbing? There is a good possibility you can’t. If you’re like most people I know, you know they’re wrong and you’re right and you’re going to convince them of it. Or the debilitating alternative: “We can’t talk about it without getting angry so let’s not go there”

Literally, the third rail of conversation. With people you call friends. With family.

Where, then, is the potential to learn something new, to deepen the most valuable contribution to a relationship someone can make; to listen? Pop quiz, yes or no: Would the state of politics, let alone of the world, be made better if more people genuinely listened, let people tell their story without interrupting to respond and sought to understand other views? Why do you believe you’re the exception to moving toward that possibility?

Here’s a possible practice you can engage with: Pick a non-negotiable issue for you – something you know you would never change your mind on. If someone who disagreed with you started telling you why you were wrong, what kind of conversation would that create? Like the ones you have now, right?

Now, imagine what questions you would suggest they ask you in order potentially understand you better? What could they do to show you that, despite your disagreement, they care about and have simple respect for you? Now look in the proverbial mirror and bring that out in yourself. Welcome to important change.

As an encouragement to take this new direction, I borrow from Michelle Obama who could have just as easily been commenting on the decay of our political conversations, rather than Vice President Biden’s opponent.

“If you think things cannot possibly get worse, trust me, they can; and they will if we don’t make a change…”

I invite you to consider the possibility she’s speaking of. Just listen.