You’ve heard it before—you shouldn’t mix politics with polite conversation. Along with religion, bringing up the topic of politics is like poking at a hornet’s nest. Instead of arousing bees to anger, you could be provoking fervent emotions and deep-seated opinions. So, why aren’t more of us doing it?
It may be that we do not want to offend others, but by keeping our own opinions hidden from view, we’re actually not being responsible citizens. Such is the mindset of Stephen P. Tryon, a Stanford graduate and Congressional hopeful who penned the book, Accountability Citizenship.
“We wrestle with all of these very difficult problems,” Tryon says. “We should be putting all of that under the big tent of the American dream.”
Tryon is an advocate for good, old-fashioned civic responsibility. He believes the noticeable decline of voter participation is in direct proportion to growing levels of apathy. “Apathy comes from a sense of dis-empowerment,” Tryon shares.
In his book, Tryon offers a step-by-step guide to restoring empowerment and self-efficacy in the American political process. It’s a tool kit for Information Age citizenship.
What exactly is an Information Age citizen?
According to Tryon, it’s a person who actively consumes information, seeks to balance that information with perspective from both sides of the issue, and then appropriately engages with other citizens and elected officials. In order to fully enjoy the benefits of our republic, you must be an active participant.
How do you talk about politics with others?
If you’re already passionate about politics, but aren’t sure how to discuss it with others, there are a few steps you can take to positively engage your friends and family. Employ a strategy that will help you share an important topic without inflaming others. Here are three tips to help you:
1. Don’t be a truth fighter
A truth fighter is a person who champions truth above everything else. Although a noble gesture, being a truth fighter can cause you to alienate others who may not understand an issue as well as you do. There is also the possibility that you could be wrong. Often times, what we understand as truth is really just our opinion on the facts.
Instead of finding the truth, find the facts, and share those impartially. Truth can be controversial, but facts are always sobering.
2. Find common ground
There’s almost always a common point of agreement in any two divergent viewpoints. If you cannot seem to agree on the issues, you can at least agree on the desired goal of the American dream. “The American dream is this notion that you can benefit from your hard work and your efforts,” Tryon posits. “Our system should be a framework that enables people to benefit in a fair way from their efforts and their hard work. Our system should be designed to make that possible.”
3. Listen to (and respect) the other person’s perspective
Being a responsible citizen of the Republic means that you’re always listening to the other point of view. “It’s understanding not just what I naturally believe, but validating what I believe by understanding the other argument, and understanding why I don’t agree with it,” Tryon says. “Along the way, you might find that the other (argument) is actually better than you own.”
The best strategy for speaking to others about such a hot-blooded issue is approaching it with mutual respect and a dedication to listening to the other side. Who knows? They may be right.