Deborah Rankin

How to have a conversation about politics

I have had only one conversation about politics this election season.

converse—verb. To talk informally with another or others; exchange views, opinions, etc., by talking.


I’ve ranted at times. Usually with people who see things the same way I do. Ranting is about blowing off steam and trashing the other party.

rant—verb. To speak or declaim extravagantly or violently.

I’ve been lectured. Perhaps someone thought it was a conversation, but it felt like a lecture. If there’s no back and forth, if opposing views or honest questions are ignored or attacked, it’s a lecture, not a conversation.

lecture—noun. A long, tedious reprimand

How about attacks?

attack—verb. To set upon in a hostile way.


I’ve seen Facebook attacks between people who are friended. Perhaps not friends. Simple statements led to hostile reactions.

For example:
“I am weary of political posts so will unfollow people who repetitively post political commentary until after the election.”

I didn’t do that, but understand why someone would. It seemed like a straightforward declaration to me. I was surprised it created counter-accusations and a bit of defamation.

Or how about:
“My health insurance premiums go up 50% next year.”

That was a statement a friend made without political commentary. Most of us notice a regular expense increasing that much year over year. I was surprised that some responded with harsh rhetoric, denial, dismissal. It made me think the attackers did not want the facts to be known.

And…where was the sympathy? Where was “Ouch, that must be hard for you”? Or “It must hurt for you two working full time to not be able to afford premiums for your family’s health insurance.”

For all of us it’s easy to rant, lecture, or attack. It saves the effort of examining our views, admitting there are things we haven’t considered, or did not know. It is easier to be sure than to doubt. To have a conversation we must accept the possibility that the other person has valid reasons for his or her position. Conversation means allowing uncertainty and doubt.

“Doubt isn’t the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith.” — Paul Tillich

I’m hoping we all learn to doubt our positions every now and then. Also I want to thank the person who engaged me in a conversation about politics. It was nice of you.

©2016 Booktalk Lady LLC

6 thoughts on “How to have a conversation about politics

  1. Thank you for reminding us that we can have a conversation vs a debate. We can listen but may not agree, especially in this political environment. Anne

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