The art of having a graceful political conversation

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The art of having a graceful political conversation

I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening): A Guide to Grace-Filled Political Conversations by Sarah Stewart Holland & Beth A. Silvers, Thomas Nelson, US $24.99, Pp 204, February 2019, ISBN 978-1400208418

Conversations about politics and religion have always been difficult. They always tended to become toxic if there were disagreements. After a toxic discussion about politics and religion, people we sit in the pew with every Sunday feel like strangers and loved ones sitting across dining tables feel like enemies. The people we consider loving and kind suddenly feel vengeful when discussing presidential elections. Many of us grow up learning a simple rule: don’t talk politics or religion. We grow up hearing that it’s rude to discuss politics and religion. It will ruin great family get-togethers such as Thanksgiving. In I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening), Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth A. Silvers strongly disagree and argue in favor of discussing any controversial political and religious topic – but gracefully.

Sarah Holland & Beth Silvers say that although political and religious discussions usually degenerate into bitterness, they don’t have to go this way. They say that there is a way out of this hyperpolarized and road-to-nowhere cycle. We just have to learn to talk to each other again. Sarah Holland and Beth Silvers are politically opposed as Sarah comes from the left and Beth from the right. But they have always carried their political discussions in a graceful way. They say, “By talking politics honestly and earnestly as yourself — not as a representative of the party to which you happen to be registered or as a polite foil for the person in your life who is more impassioned about politics than you are — you add your unique experience and opinions and perspective to a space that needs you. You also sign up to be vulnerable, to be challenged, and to evolve.”

Sarah Holland & Beth Silvers say that you can have a graceful conversation only if you are not one of those who freeze at a point in time. You cannot have a decent political conversation if you are not one of those who refuse to learn another new thing. The people whose conversations usually degenerate into bitterness are those who “are happy with their hair, and they’ve found the perfect brand of jeans that they’re staying with. The music from their high school days makes them happy, so that’s all they listen to. Curiously and charmingly, these folks become like wax statues for particular eras.” Sarah Holland and Beth Silvers say that it’s not what we want for our brains, especially when the world is changing faster all the time. The righteousness of unchallenged thought freezes us in time. We cling to views even when those views are based on experiences that are divorced from the present and future. We need to be vigilant about what stands the test of time and what needs to change with it.  If you never engage with the world, the world never has a chance to push and pull you in new directions.

Engaging with other people is never easy, but it is always worth it. Engaging with other people about politics is no different. Sarah Holland and Beth Silvers write, “Let yourself take that chance. Let yourself rise to the challenge. Your ability to stretch and grow will surprise you, and so will the people around you.” They say that once people see you as a person willing to have thoughtful, curious, calm discussions, you will have all kinds of interesting conversations that seem impossible. People you thought you understood will leave you slack-jawed in awe of their empathy and compassion. People you thought were kind listeners will surprise you with their passionate and previously unshared thought on the policy. You’ll have a new appreciation for the people around you, new ideas about how to solve problems in your own life and in the public sphere, and perhaps new inspiration about your place in the tapestry of our democracy.

I Think You’re Wrong (But I’m Listening) is a practical guide to hold controversial political and religious conversations without ending up verbally fighting. The authors who come from the right and left of the political spectrum tell us why political and religious conversations tend to turn bitter and how that reflects your personality. They give practical tips to change the way you conduct yourself while you have a controversial political and religious discussion. This amazing easy-to-read book will change the way how you socialize with people who hold diametrically opposed religious and political views and still be happy. You will never feel the stress and strains that are usually associated with religious and political conversations.

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