Communication tips for surviving Election Day


Folks around my hometown joke that I teethed on a ballot box. My parents, you see, were very politically active and got their kiddos involved early and often in the pursuit of civic duty. They taught me about communicating constructively and respectfully with folks from the other side. So it was no surprise I was asked to write about politics and dating for (see below for links). The advice rings true for any of us communicating with people of opposing views.

Debate prep

Develop talking points. Know what's important to you and establish some talking points that explain and support those views. Then anticipate the other person's objections and questions and come up with some talking points to address those, too. Make sure your ideas are realistic, reasonable and possible.

Don’t expect change. If you go in with the goal of changing the other person’s point of view, you’re prone to taking the wrong posture and tone. Make your goal opening their eyes to your point of view – and vice versa.

Rules of engagement

Agree to disagree. Object to the politics, not to the person. Just because you don’t see eye to eye doesn’t mean you should indict the other person. If you can’t find common ground on the issue(s), at least you can agree that you don’t agree!

Look for common ground. Instead of focusing on what you don’t agree on, dig deeper to find the larger issues where you do agree. Strive to achieve shared gains, or at least minimize shared losses. This helps you find similarities in core values – and gives you an opportunity to work together in service of those. Or you’ll realize there’s no common ground and move on.

Be respectful. Keep it clean. No matter how passionate you are -- or how wrong you think they are -- don't raise your voice, resort to name-calling or engage in other low-rent tactics. If tempers flare or tension rises, take a short break and resume discussions later.

Call a cease-fire. If things start to escalate – in a specific conversation or the run-up to an election – lay down your arms. Honor your relationships with friends, family and colleagues by avoiding political conversations if you can’t have them constructively. Discretion is the better part of valor, after all.

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