Talking about race, politics, and other hot button issues might feel inevitable right now. Knowing the current political landscape is likely to impact our mental health, here are a few strategies to mitigate these difficult conversations.
- Manage expectations. A debate is an attempt to persuade another person that you’re right, whereas a dialogue is a process of discovery and learning. Instead of trying to convert another person, strive to understand what’s important to the other person. Be an engaged listener and share your thoughts patiently. Having a practical understanding of what the dialogue is, and isn’t, will help you avoid feeling disappointed.
- Practice active listening. When engaged in a difficult dialogue, listen to understand rather than listen to respond. Soak in an opposing viewpoint before thinking of a response — it is ok (and even preferable) to take a moment to collect your thoughts before you respond. Cultivate your curiosity and express genuine interest in someone else’s experiences and perspectives. Invite the other person to share by using language such as, “I’m not sure I agree with you about X; however, I want to hear more about what that means to you,” and actively listen to the response.
- Take a break if you need one. Your discussion will be more productive if it’s less emotionally charged. Take deep breaths and use coping mechanisms during the dialogue. Remember, if the conversation becomes too intense, you can always take a break and come back to it.
- Set boundaries. There are basic principles that should be respected in any difficult conversation (for some convos, this step might be most important). Make some friendly rules, such as, “If either of us starts yelling, let’s stop and try another time.” Set boundaries around the issues that are important to you, and stick to them. Or, “While we talk about this topic, lets both avoid bringing up X.”
- Keep conversations off social media. Social media discussions are not likely to create change, and some studies have even shown that seeing opposing political ideas on Twitter actually increases political polarization. Limit political talks to the phone or, ideally, in person.
- Remember your own evolution. Use the “three F strategy” to share your understanding and beliefs with the words, “felt, found, and feel.” For example, when talking about an issue, you might say that at one time you felt a certain way, but then you found out more about the issue, and now you feel differently.
Using these tips can help you approach this election season, all while providing healthy discussion that might shift your perspective and likely deepen your relationships.
*If you or someone you love is struggling with mental health, request an appointment with one of our professional mental health providers at Diversus Health today. If you need immediate assistance, call our crisis hotline at 844-493-8255, or text ‘TALK’ to 38255.