Talking May Require New Skills During Holidays

Talking isn’t simple anymore

You may have noticed that talking isn’t the same during these holidays as in years gone by. Even though most of us are distanced, maybe only seeing each other via Zoom or Facetime, we still might find ourselves face-to-face, so to speak.

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Our nation’s politics has stretched our coping skills to the max! Just try to be civil with someone who is an absolute idiot about what is oh-so obvious! Can’t they see that they’re absolutely wrong and you’re the smart one, the one that truly gets it?

Just so you’re clear, the above example perspective could come from any political side, from any family member or friend who strives to make a point. And, to make matters worse and less promising, it’s early yet. We still have the religious holidays coming up in December followed by everyone cheering something about having a Happy New Year. Good luck with that. Talking can be a challenge.

The political divide is everywhere, especially in every family

Tovia Smith, writing for NPR, , ‘Dude, I’m Done’: When Politics Tears Families And Friendships Apart, reports in her column:

Jocelyn Kiley, associate director of research at the Pew Research Center, said political polarization is more intense now than at any point in modern history. Nearly 80% of Americans now have “just a few” or no friends at all across the aisle, according to Pew. And the animosity goes both ways.

Smith reports how divided the nation is during this political strife:

Another recent poll by the Public Religion Research Institute shows that 8 in 10 Republicans believe the Democratic Party has been taken over by socialists, while 8 in 10 Democrats believe the Republican Party has been taken over by racists. The report is aptly named titled “Dueling Realities.”

Why this is important to EVV

This blog is centered on one political cause: making our presidential elections fairer through the adoption of Equal Voice Voting (EVV). So why would I devote so much time and space to concerns over civil discourse?

EVV’s main tenet is that All Votes Matter! Every presidential election causes us to toss aside tens of millions of votes before they gain any Electoral College representation. It happens, not for nefarious or corrupt reasons, but because we employ a Winner-Takes-All (WTA) approach. It disenfranchises (suppresses) votes that could have made a difference. In the 2016 election, we ignored over 63 million votes. This recent election indicates that we’ll ignore over 68 million (the votes are still be counted as of this writing, so the number will increase).

All of this is to say that if we want our presidential elections to be more inclusive (democratic), we must make space for, recognize, and honor the votes of those who do not agree with us. We know voter suppression is anti-democratic and we can now recognize that vote suppression (the WTA concern) makes matters worse. Trying to nullify rather than aggravate the divide between us, then, means that our shouting at each other doesn’t help.

Talking can improve if we try

Thankfully, there is advice for all of us to help us get through these times.

Tovia Smith (highlighted above) provides a resource for calm by pointing to Tania Israel, a professor in the counseling, clinical and school psychology department at the University of California, Santa Barbara and author of Beyond Your Bubble: How to Connect Across the Political Divide, Skills and Strategies for Conversations That Work. Israel shares this piece of advice:

A little more listening to understand, a little less trying to convince, and a lot more intellectual humility would do everyone a world of good.

[Israel] said she’s seeing more of those kinds of distorted views in the workshops she runs on cross-the-aisle conversations. The rancor is rising, she said, as both sides “tend to view the other as being more extreme than they actually are.”

Indeed, experts said it’s more conversation — not less — that’s needed, if the nation is to heal its blistering divide. But it has to be healthy, productive conversation. …  the first step must be to take it off social media and talk in person instead.

Brittany Wong, writing for the Huffington Post, reports in, How Therapists Talk To Their Family Members With Different Political Views. She quotes a therapist, Sean Davis, with:

Davis said he usually prefers to be clear and direct about what he believes and why when talking politics. To that end, he uses nonconfrontational “I” statements. “I use phrases such as, ‘As I see it…,’ ‘To me…,’ ‘I see it differently’… I make sure to validate: I let the other person know I heard her even if I disagree with what they said.” Even just saying, “I understand you see it that way. I see it this way …” can shape the conversation for the better, he said.

Looking forward to the holiday season

As we progress towards the winter solstice on December 21st, the shortest day of the year, and beyond to other upcoming holidays, let’s remember the brighter days we’ve shared before. Sure, that “other” person voted differently than you did. They have a right to do that. Sure, you don’t agree with their world view. It’s not your job, remember, to educated them on the ways of the world. Your job, right now, is to hold it all together relationship-wise. Take the time. Make the space. Face each other. And listen.

Let’s make 2021 a good year.

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By Jerry Spriggs and the Equal Voice Voting Team

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