Are there any similarities between democrats and republicans? Well, yes. And it’s important we talk about that. Here’s why.
I’m not going to lie. In 2016, I thought Trump was going to be a good president. There was a lot he had going for him that I thought would be valuable in a president.
Three years later and facing another election cycle, I don’t have those same opinions anymore. Why? Well, a couple of reasons.
For starters, I can look at the things that happened throughout Trump’s presidency. I can form opinions on the actions and events that have transpired. I can’t only focus on what could be accomplished. And you know what they say, hindsight is 20/20.
But another major factor is that I’ve changed who I spend my time with. I’m no longer in an echo chamber of Trump supporters. By branching out, I’ve opened myself up to new views and opinions and found many of them to be valid.
I’m glad I got to go through this personal transition. It’s made me more open to new ideas, and I’m better able to defend my beliefs. So as we’re coming to a new election, let’s talk about some dangers of staying in our boxes, and what we can do about it.
The Problems With Echo Chambers
It feels good to be around people we share similarities with. We’re more likely to feel safe and accepted and see ourselves as part of a tribe. And for humans, a sense of belonging is vital to our well-being. No wonder we hate to feel like an outsider.
Yet when we spend all our time with people who share our beliefs, we end up suffering as an individual. This is even worse when we ostracize anyone who thinks differently. On a grand scale, this impacts our society.
If we can’t have our beliefs challenged, how can we justify them? And if we can’t have an open discussion, how can we, as a nation, ever move towards solutions to any problem?
Democrats vs Republicans
We fight more notoriously than rock, paper, and scissors. The bullheaded rope pulling doesn’t get either side anywhere.
But the constant fighting has an even bigger issue. We tend to see people who share political views different from our own as a “less-than” person.
Sometimes we perceive someone with different beliefs as a lower-level human. When that happens, we lose any chance of communicating with them. And it’s our own fault.
No one will respect the ideas of someone else if they feel belittled or patronized in the process. So to open a political conversation, you have to start with respect.
Your Brain on Opposing Beliefs
Listen, I get talking to someone on the opposite side of the political spectrum is scary. We all have a relative who raves, rants and screams about politics and won’t listen to anyone until they’re through. God forbid you to get stuck in an argument like that.
But it goes even deeper than that. When we’re confronted with different views, our brain scans show interesting data.
They light up in the areas associated with our identities and where we sense threats. We honestly feel as though our very definition of ourselves is being challenged.
How can you change someone’s mind if they think you’re challenging their very identity?
Nonetheless, we need to start talking. But note, we don’t need to start convincing.
This year, when politics come up over dinner, we hope you’ll open the discussion. We don’t want you to change anyone’s mind. We want you to help create an environment where people feel safe to share their opinions.
How on earth could you do that?
Here are a few tips.
How to Have an Effective Conversation
When we’re faced with differing opinions, we feel like you’re challenging our identity. So first off, do what you can to make sure your conversational partner feels respected.
Tip 1: Listen to Understand, Not Respond
Most of the time when we argue, we listen to respond. If you’re planning your response while the other person talks, you’re listening to respond.
Instead, let your conversational partner finish their point. Then repeat their ideas to show you’re listening. Most likely, this action will catch them off guard.
When people feel listened to and respected, they’re more likely to reciprocate.
Tip 2: Do an Activity
It’s easier to have hard conversations if there’s something we can do to distract ourselves. So when you want to talk politics, find something else to do too. Go to a bar and play pool. Enjoy the health benefits of a good bike ride. If you feel the need to take the edge off, enjoy an adult beverage, but try to limit it to one.
The point is, find a way to stay busy. Let the conversation have natural lulls and pauses. Incorporating an activity makes this easier.
Tip 3: Start With the Similarities Between Democrats and Republicans
Believe it or not, there are a lot of similarities between democrats and republicans. Here are a few of them. At the very least, there are some political topics where we already share similar footing.
Both democrats and republicans are worried about the skyrocketing costs of healthcare. They’re also worried about the stress on our social security system.
Try starting your conversation with, “What do you think would be a way to fix the costs of high healthcare?” Then hear your conversational partner out. Pick some points you agree on, and share your thoughts.
By starting on similar ground, you’re more likely to have a friendly, open conversation.
Tip 4: Remember You Aren’t Trying to Change Minds, But Promote Discussion
Of course, you want to get someone else to share your beliefs. That’s human nature. But remember they share the same desire. When you talk politics, don’t try to change their opinion.
Try to understand where they’re coming from. This will make you more informed about your own opinions, and it will open more space where we can share our ideas.
Tip 5: Plan A Meetup
Biking is a great way to make new friends. Joining a regular Red White and Blue biking meetup is a great way to encourage political debates. Join a meetup near you, or start your own.
There Are More Similarities Between Democrats and Republicans Than You’d Think
As the elections approach, remember that alienating the other party helps no one. Instead, focus on doing what you can to open the political discussion.
You won’t change minds overnight. But you will help to create a world where we can safely share opinions and ideas to find solutions to help us all.
Our goal is not to convince someone to share our beliefs. Instead, we want to come to understand and respect those who believe differently.