How To Talk To Conservatives

The Rockridge Institute has posted an excerpt of George Lakoff's Don't Think of An Elephant!: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate in order to help people get through difficult family conversations during the holiday season. Unfortunately, I didn't find this in time to post before Thanksgiving, but the holiday season is now in full force, so these suggestions and guidelines might be helpful if, like me, you are politically outnumbered at family gatherings. At a quick glance, some of these suggestions seem pretty straightforward. Yet, if you have ever gotten into a heated political discussion, you know that it can be difficult to "avoid a shouting match", "stay calm", and "show respect." Personally, I think staying good humored is one of Lakoff's best suggestions. Political discussions certainly deal with serious issues, but approaching a conversation too seriously will often push people away from your viewpoint, rather than open them up to a new perspective. For instance, if you've been reading this blog for a while you know that I had a lot of energy and emotion invested in the election. The blog wasn't my only outlet, either. I broached the subject with friends and family on many occassions, and much to my dismay, I never seemed to get anywhere with people who weren't already predisposed to my views. At the time, and even now, I found it incredibly frustrating. I felt that my heightened seriousness about the issue should have been enough to at least make people question their own convictions. Unfortunately, I didn't see any evidence that this happened, and I think it is because seriousness (and I mean serious seriousness) has a tendency to come off as cute. Yes, cute as in, "Oh, isn't it cute that John thinks the state shouldn't prevent a man from marrying a man?" or "Awww, Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11?? How cute!!" There probably is also a tendency for (my) seriousness to come across as unhinged. This is something I've been trying to work on in the past few weeks, but the truth is, I've found it pretty difficult to be more good humored when it comes to these types of things. So, I'm open to suggestions, and interested in hearing how other people approach these conversations, if at all.