6

Inspired by this question, I thought of a recent pattern of behavior that I have been falling into that I have been seeking to change. My question is different because it does not pertain to dealing with a group of like minded people.

My significant other and I have similar mindsets, we like to think we are logical thinkers, since we are both in engineering fields. In addition, we both have the same religion and have the same concern for current events and politics.

The only real friction point between us is out world view / political view. More often than not, when we bring up current events it becomes a "I'm right, you're wrong" sort of thing. There really isn't a purpose behind such discussions; sometimes we just find interesting things and tell the other. We want to be persuasive and learn things from each other. Regardless if I bring up some credible articles that I have found, or similar viewpoints from people as the same political party as her, she retreats to her views, and, if I'm being truly honest, I to mine.

For instance, we were talking about the Steel and Aluminum import tariff anouncement made on March 1st. This is more of a trade protectionism versus free-trade issue that isn't clear cut accross the right and the left. I stated that while the intention to help domestic industry is there, a massive infrastructure effort is required to offset the lost raw material from rising prices from imports. She stated it will create jobs. To which I mentioned the fallout of the 2002 tariffs 16 years ago. She said that the tariff could be undone at any time. From there it became more opinionated and we got relatively nowhere. I should have stopped there, but I kept going because I was worried about this action being a repeat of 2002.

Both of us want to have some sort productive discussion and really move forward when it comes to politics. But for me I find it difficult to have a productive discussion when I present statistics on what has happened, or credible articles (i.e. not from conspiracy theorist or clearly partisan sites) and they are just dismissed.

Part of me thinks I'm part of the issue with the way I am presenting information, or even simply bringing up discussion But as much I want to be agreeable, I don't want reality to be trampled on simply becuase it disagrees with an opinion.

How can I be an agreeable person while engaging in productive political discussion?

  • 3
    Without knowing why you are engaging in political discussion it's much harder to be able to offer real and meaningful information about how to engage in it in a productive manner. If you're doing it for no reason and it's causing problems then the obvious solution is to stop doing it. – sphennings Mar 2 '18 at 5:29
  • 1
    It's very different task to try to change someone's mind than to try to explain a concept to someone. Which are you asking about? – sphennings Mar 2 '18 at 7:08
  • 3
    I think this question is potentially very valuable to the community, because we see a lot of this happening in the public sphere. You express one opinion which sounds liberal, or conservative, and suddenly people jump to rather interesting assumptions about your political beliefs, and your character as a human being (usually negative ones). We see this happening a lot in the media, where those of disagreeing political views are often painted as immoral. We really do need to learn to listen, and engage with one another again, and this question is, essentially, asking, how does one do that? – AndreiROM Mar 2 '18 at 14:32
4

I can sort of relate, my partner and I have similar problems. We generally agree on core issues, but we tend to have very different ideas about solutions. They tend to be more passive, while I lean towards a more active stance...

The thing that tends to help us get along, and keep the peace, is giving each other space to be our own people.

We're just wired a little different, and that's ok. We try to be patient with each other when we each step up on our soapboxes, listen to each other with some empathy and understanding, and acknowledge where we see eye to eye.

Perhaps most importantly, we try to understand why the other thinks and feels the way they do about things. This is likely why we can deeply disagree about certain things and still get along. It's not so much about pulling up facts and polls and studies as much as understanding where the other person is coming from and why they're coming from that direction. I know it may seem counterintuitive, but sometimes mutual understanding is more important than statistics. After all, "people can come up with statistics to prove anything... Forfty percent of all people know that."

  • Engaging in honest conversation is the key here. Don't try to disprove the other person, and genuinely try to see things from their point of view. This is especially critical with family members, or loved ones. For example, let's say that she points out an article. Read it! Then ask to sit down and discuss it. Bring counterarguments, or another piece of media which may shed new light on the conversation. But if you don't engage openly and honestly with one another, then how will you discuss other big issues in your lives as time goes on? – AndreiROM Mar 2 '18 at 14:36
  • Actually, 94.376% of all statistics are made up on the spot. – K. Alan Bates Mar 3 '18 at 1:48
  • @K.AlanBates Actually, that was just a butchered Simpsons reference. – apaul Mar 3 '18 at 1:53
3

You write "we are both in engineering fields". Politics is not like engineering and I think that is the problem here.

Lots of intelligent and highly educated people have different opinions about politics. There is often no right or wrong (unlike in engineering).

I think it's good if you know each other's opinion and if you like talk about it. But look at it like a question like "which is your favorite color?". There is no correct answer.

2

I've had this same exact problem in multiple past relationships and the solution that worked for me every time was to listen more than speak. And when I say listen, I mean really listen, don't just wait for your turn to speak. Show that you are listening by repeating things she says but slightly re-worded -- if she says, "I think it's an important issue because it affects all of us," then say, "So you feel it's something we all have to deal with?" or something to that effect. Typically, people want to make sure they are understood, which is why they continually argue. And here is the kicker: don't ever share your point of view in that discussion, focus solely on hers, let her get it out of her system. Eventually, if she really cares about your point of view, she will ask for it and return the favor.

  • 1
    How long, on average, did in depth listening take before she asked for your view voluntarily? My worry is that it just becomes on person becoming a political pincushiom for the other at that point. – isakbob Mar 2 '18 at 14:48
  • 1
    It doesn't take long if they actually care about your point of view. Otherwise, you may want to rethink being with someone who isn't going to try to hear your perspective on things. Relationships are a two way street, after all. – zoltar Mar 2 '18 at 20:54
1

When having these kinds of discussions, it's important to find exactly why you disagree with someone else. Find the "un-provable assumption" that your argument relies on and that the argument of your "adversary" relies on.

You then need to understand that fundamentally each of you might believe something completely different for un-explainable reasons and that you can't change those core beliefs.

However, you can change how they interpret those beliefs. That's where the good, healthy discussion/debate comes from.

You can provide piles of statistics, articles, journals, books, or whatever but more often than not they rely on those same fundamental beliefs that you have but your partner does not. That's why often just citing articles is ineffective in a personal debate.

Instead, focus on "why" they believe that. Unwind the logic behind it and talk about that. Have a back and forth about it. Agree with them when it'd make sense for them to believe that given their beliefs. Disagree when there's a contradiction and talk about it.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.