Lead with Curiosity

This year is volatile in many ways. Things can get ugly when we disagree about things, especially politics. I am not writing to promote one candidate over another, or one policy over another. I am writing to consider how to maintain friendships while having the discussions we are bound to have in an election year. I write from experience because I recently had to disagree – gently – with a good friend. My personal preferences were not important, nor was my view on the future of our country. The important thing was the future a a precious friendship.
A calmer approach also opens my mind and allows me to learn. Let’s say I disagree profoundly with someone, even someone I barely know. Now it’s not about preserving a relationship. I could tend to get emotional in such a discussion. I’ve discovered this accomplishes nothing. Political discussions can never be ‘won’. Looking back, I see it’s all about ego: “Can’t you see I am right?” Another good friend corrected me on this a few years ago, and while the criticism stung, I appreciate it now.

So, how are we to talk to each other in a hotly contested election year? Consider one idea, see if you think it has merit: Put your curiosity in the drivers seat. Ask the person, “Why do you think this candidate (or policy) would be the best choice? Ask other questions.

Here is where it gets interesting, because you have just initiated a discussion. The person may want to know what you think. But you are prepared, not just because you have a position, but because you are calm enough to have heard what the person just said. I suggest that you refrain from arguing, even if you do have a host of facts to support your view. Instead you might phrase your ideas in words less threatening to your listener, for example, “My understanding is…” Why do this? It’s about keeping lines of communication open, which I think is more important than the illusion of winning. The benefits of this are great. We begin to learn things. I may learn things of value without having to change my mind totally. I think all this is helpful in an election year!