At the top of numerous lists, titled with some variation of “Topics to avoid during a first date, family dinner, or networking events,” is one that has become unavoidable — politics.
It is no longer a question of when is it appropriate and mutually fruitful to talk about politics, but rather how.
Complicate The Narrative
In New York, Richard Schiffman explores the findings of the Difficult Conversations Lab at Columbia University, where researchers found two people of opposing views may increase their mutual understanding by reading an article presenting their topic with nuanced arguments from both sides, followed by a face-to-face discussion.
Depolarize Political Dialogue
In Washington, D.C., Andrew Small writes about a workshop called Better Angels, where 16 participants, evenly divided among conservatives and liberals, gathered in a church basement to use conflict resolution techniques and participated in exercises focused on helping participants listen, confront and reflect on the diversity of opinions from their counterparts, and from within their own political groups.
Engage in Meaningful Conversations
In Worthington, Ohio, Julie Carr Smyth writes about “U.S. Political Thought and Radicalism,” a class at Thomas Worthington High School, where students learn how to respectfully engage and interact with people and groups who may hold or represent beliefs or ideologies different from their own. The class has been offered in the school district for close to five decades, and includes a roster of speakers like “former revolutionary Bill Ayers of the Weather Underground, Harry Hughes of the National Socialist Movement, Ramona Africa from the black liberation group MOVE, white supremacist Richard Spencer, and Turner Diaries author William Pierce.”
Promote “Responsible Discourse”
In South Bend, Indiana, Stacy Teicher Khadaroo writes about BridgeND, a group of politically moderate students who connected politically divided students through “transpartisan” events like panel discussion with political groups across the spectrum, and “Political Speed Dating” night, where students discuss topics ranging from dorm life to birth control for a set time at their table, before moving on to another. The group’s model has grown and been adopted in almost 10 other college campuses across the U.S.