Talking politics is not for the faint of heart. Or the deaf of ear. It was once said that fools don’t care about anything but expressing their own opinions (Proverbs 18:2). While this truth certainly applies to all areas of life, it’s fairly important to remember when it comes to politics.
Politics are very complicated, and often people just barge ahead and end up looking like fools because they didn’t listen. Often when you think you have everything straight, you’re about to find out you don’t. It’s just the nature of the game. That’s what makes humility so important. Talking politics is a delicate dance that cannot be done well without first learning to converse cordially.
Being able to converse cordially consists of two skills: communicating potently and listening intently. The two go hand in hand. One without the other will lead to disaster. We must learn to be good listeners if we want to talk politics without an explosion. So what does listening look like?
1. Think Before You Speak
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. -Philippians 4:8
Think before you speak. That just about says it all. Every thought that comes into your head does not need to be said out loud. It’s really not possible to say everything that goes through your head. And since this is the case, we should certainly be selective about what we allow out of our mouths.
Before you say something, take a moment to send it through a filter. Does it fit the criteria of being true, noble and pure? Is it related to the topic at hand? If the answer is no, don’t say it. Just don’t. So many problems can be avoided when we learn to quit speaking in the heat of the moment, and choose our words with care.
Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit. Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it. -Psalm 34:13-14
2. Ask Good Questions
It is the glory of God to conceal a matter,
But the glory of kings is to search out a matter. -Proverbs 25:2
It’s good to pause, step back and clarify some things when talking politics. Asking questions helps draw in who you’re talking to, and helps them think deeper about the issues at hand. Asking questions is very important if you want to be able to accurately address the position and ideas of those you are talking to. After all, if you don’t really know what each of you are thinking, then how can you know for sure whether you are saying the same thing or not?
Excellent questions not only shed light on the issue being discussed, but also on the individuals discussing them. Learning how to ask excellent questions takes time and practice. There’s no better way to get good at asking question than simply asking questions. Ask lots of questions and listen to the answers. You’ll have fun, get to know people better, and even grow a little smarter too.
3. Pay Attention to Timing
To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven . . . A time to keep silence, and a time to speak; -Ecclesiastes 3:1,7
When you’re talking politics, the topics can bounce all over the place. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to your timing when you’re talking politics. Saying something important at the wrong time is just as bad as not saying it at all. Learning when to jump in and when to sit back can be tricky. But if you take a moment to evaluate the situation before you say something, it can make all the difference.
You have to think about how your comment will mix with what’s already being said, felt, and expressed. Does it join the conversation, add a twist, or encouraging thoughtfulness? If not, you may want to hold onto that thought for now. If you have to speak over someone else, drastically change the subject, or risk enraging someone who’s already passionate, then you may want to wait for a better time. A great point can be ruined if the timing isn’t right to share it.
While it may not always be easy to talk politics well, it is possible. We all have two ears and a mouth that we can use rightly with the help of our brain. We are able to do that, even with tricky tasks like conversing cordially, when we think before we speak, ask good questions, and think on our feet. You really can learn to listen, even if you’re just a kid!
Conversing cordially is an art, but it isn’t impossible. It may come clumsily at first, but the more you do it the better you’ll get. I hope that this article will inspire you to listen and engage with politics more. In the next installment of this series I will continue to show you specific tips and techniques to help you start talking politics.