One of the first thing every American learns is that we don’t discuss religion or politics in polite company. We don’t talk about them at the dinner table. We don’t discuss them at family gatherings.
This was a HUGE mistake.
Instead of being polite, America has forgotten how to be politely disagree. We have forgotten than you can be passionate, opinionated, and still be civil and respect those around you.
We like to assume that people are not all idiots. If they understood all the facts like we do, then they would understand the situation and agree with our opinion. So when we encounter the uninformed, we try to persuade them. When they reply with their incorrect facts, then we decide that actually they are idiots or hopelessly deluded.
To avoid this, we all just don’t talk about religion and politics — in person. Instead we post it to our facebooks and twitter fields. On the Internet, you don’t have to be civil. You are not talking to a person, you are behind a keyboard and a screen name. You are not looking at someone’s face, or hearing the emotion in your own voice.
Plus, we know that religion and politics are not polite topics, so you don’t have to be polite?
We share posts that use words like “LibTard” or call people “traitors.” We get angry and dismiss people as stupid. We like a mean or vulgar joke that makes fun of people.
All of these “impolite” posts juxtapose so nicely next to happy photos of families, birthdays, grandkids, friendly memories, and prayer requests. We have turned into a nation of Jekylls and Hydes. We are the wonderful friends and family that others care about; but, we are also the mean spirited, naming calling monsters lashing out at those same loved ones in a semi-public forum.
Read what you are posting. Look at the words you are using and the names you are calling. Now, think about your siblings, nieces, parents, friends — why would you say these things to them?!?
Everyone is left wondering, are these my real friends and family? Have they always been so two-faced? What else do they think about me, or say about me when I am not around?
Think back to some of the messages you have seen posted that hurt you. Did you take them to heart. Did it hurt your relationship. Are you okay doing the same thing to others? “Don’t be so sensitive,” you say. “It’s just a joke!” But would that have taken the sting away from the things that hurt you?
So let’s put it all on the table. Let’s make it okay to have conflict, but learn how to respect each other and be polite. This is a necessary skill as an adult. You will disagree with your spouse, your boss, your coworkers, your adult children. Successful people learn how to resolve conflict. It takes energy. It works better face to face.
You first have to assume that the other person is not an idiot, then instead of “educating” them as to why you are right and they are wrong; why don’t you ask them why they disagree? Be humble, maybe they have a perspective that you haven’t thought about.
Try this experiment, before you state your opinion, ask yourself if there was anything that could change your mind? Is there any fact or information that would change your opinion. I don’t think our current immigration policy is fair. We let people cut in line. If someone could explain why some people get to cut in line, then I might change my mind.
BUT, if there is nothing that could change your mind — then you are not being reasonable. You are ignoring facts. You don’t want to have a conversation, you want to shout and be told that you are right. Before you open your mouth, make sure that you have an open mind. You don’t want to be preached to on how you don’t understand things, and neither do your friends.
They probably would like to share perspectives and understand how someone they count as a friend thinks. Maybe the problem isn’t so simple, and you both have something to learn from each other. Maybe it’s one of those things that is so complex that there isn’t a clear good answer for everyone. But maybe, just maybe — since these people are your friends and family, you share similar values. You both want what is best, right, and fair. You both want to be heard and not shutdown. You both want to feel like the other person respects your intelligence and opinion.
I think it is time we start talking about politics and religion –especially with the people we care about. But let’s make time to listen too. Let’s remember that these people are people. Let’s get out from behind our screens and actually put names and faces to the posts and likes.
It’s time to have a civil conversation again.