Five Steps toward Peaceful Political Conversations

Posted by Mimi Meredith at Tuesday, October 28th, 2014 8:45 am

It's crunch time in campaign season. Sorting the mail, reading the paper or watching cable television leaves one no doubt that we're weeks away from an election.

To avoid the lingering nastiness of the political machine, I can throw away unwanted mail, skip the print ads and turn off the tv. But what if the talking points and misinformation are coming at me in the workplace or the coffee shop?

Meditating businessman with arguing colleagues

Here are some simple steps to seek peace in the middle of all the ruckus and even, just possibly, to gain understanding.

1. Give yourself a go-to phrase.

Mine is "That's an interesting perspective."

The viewpoints to which we cling are only one perspective. They may hold elements of fact and truth, but none of us has the corner on the whole truth.

When I hear myself say that phrase out loud, it reminds me that my next step is to embrace my own silence. I don't waste energy arguing or even agreeing, which creates its own like-minded frenzy. I am working to let go of contentious conversational threads before they bind me up and choke the joy out of me.

2. What good will come from arguing?

The Socrates test: "Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?"

The Mimi challenge: Stopping my headlong rush to correct the world long enough to consider anything so simple and effective.

I generally am kind...generally...and I hope I'm always truthful. But, oof dah! Imagine the blissful silence I'd create were I to consider the necessity of my words before I said them.

3. Change the subject.

Don't worry about a subtle segue, just start a new conversation."How about those Royals!?""Can you believe the weather we're having?"

Time is precious. Human interaction is valuable. If either is to be spent in conversation that will lead you no where, at least make it benign and gentle.

4. Seek understanding.

This is for those days when you're feeling especially balanced and you know expanding your thought base won't hurt you. Ask the individual sharing their political perspective, "What makes you think that?" or "Help me understand that perspective?"

BUT, only engage in that kind of conversation when you sincerely care to know and when you have time to process fairly what the other is about to share. Don't be superficial and underpin your question thinking snarky "what an idiot" thoughts to yourself. He or she may have some valid points that might just stretch your mind and budge a mental block or two.

5. Defend goodness.

Political perspectives are one thing, but hate talk, racism and bigotry are another.

Don't stand for it. Remaining silent is the equivalent of endorsement. 

"I don't agree with what you said or what your words represent. If you want to understand why, I'll be happy to tell you."

"Dude, don't talk that way around me."

"I am sure there are many things we have in common, but that isn't one of them."

Here's the greatest tip I have: Before you say anything, allow a moment of silence. In that space, tune into your heart rate, which is likely racing, and take a deep, quieting breath. When you speak in a measured and calm tone, your words will have greater impact. Reactionary speech leads to conflict and feeds anger.

To create a return to civility, promote understanding and improve relationships, we must practice peaceful discourse. And that moves from the inside out. Cultivate the fertile ground of your spirit so that goodness can grow.


  • Jane Deterding

    Uh oh….. we discussed politics at lunch recently. Did I hear any of your “cues”? good words.