COLUMN: Staying civil and unified in a divided world

Cordial conversations are the main keys to becoming a truly united nation in today’s “my way or the highway” type political climate.
Graphic by Nick Prainito

Faith Brown is a freshman psychology major at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about introspective takes on modern society for The Maneater.

With our current political leaders, we live in a divided nation. It may be easier to be closed-minded on political and cultural views, but it will ultimately do more harm.

Missouri is a red state, which bodes well for some agendas and doesn’t for others. The University of Missouri remains a fairly liberal campus, yet there are plenty of conflicts of interest between student political views. Contrasting political views can be most distressing in campus living, where roommates may have to live with irreconcilable opposing views under the same roof. How can one stay respectful in such bitter times?

Empathy. Empathy is the most overlooked and the most essential aspect of conflict resolution. It may seem difficult at first to see both sides of any political argument, but respectful communication will have a positive effect on both parties in the end.

Everyone wants to be heard and understood. Give that same energy to the opposing side in a conversation. Not only will empathy provide a patient mindset during a heated political conversation, but it will also allow someone to be the “bigger person” in that argument. If the other person in the argument sees no hard feelings are being held, then they will hopefully join that same level of civility.

Applying other people’s perspectives to how one would like to be treated can reveal a plethora of ways to further connect with the other person in an argument. It shows the possible ways one may anger the person they’re arguing with. That way, each person can take the necessary steps to avoid hurting their opposition’s feelings, as well as their own.

To stay respectful in a political argument is to see both sides to the best ability. This is the hardest part.

With the political beliefs sometimes being a “hive-mind” ideology from region to region, it’s become too easy to conform to one side’s ideologies. Look into your personal beliefs rather than that of a homogenized political party. Realize that “liberal” is not synonymous with “democrat” just as “conservative” is not synonymous with “republican”. Believe it or not, conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans do exist. Find a common ground between your political counterparts and stick to the similarities rather than the differences.

Avoid making generalizations about each political party based on unsavory representatives within them. Not all Republicans, Democrats, liberals or conservatives think exactly the same as one another. Weigh the pros and cons of each political conflict you encounter with someone who disagrees and to come to a respectful conclusion.

Recognize that some people cannot be changed. In the specific case of those with racist beliefs, it’s much more complicated. Race is not a political issue, it is a human rights issue. Racism is not a rationally excusable ideology. Politics are. Trying to pry at someone’s mind isn’t going to make them change it. Instead, understand that they have arrived at their own personal conviction. Try to figure out how someone adopted these ideas instead of berating them for it.

Berating someone for their political beliefs only gives them a reason to be defensive rather than open to a respectful conversation. When someone is defensive, they are often not going to take in anything useful or insightful. This is why finding common similarities with someone is much more effective than focusing on the differences. By allowing someone to think about why and how they believe in what they do, it gives them more time to assess and possibly re-evaluate their beliefs.

Perhaps the person in the argument has never had a truly civil and calm conversation with someone about their political views. Maybe the other person in an argument hasn’t fully thought about their political opinions because they’ve never had a respectful debate with someone. Be that person that can invoke an insightful conversation. Who knows, perspectives could change on both sides!

It’s a simple act of human decency to listen to someone and try and understand why they believe in what they do. Through a simple conversation complete with empathy and acceptance, you can unite perspectives that used to be incompatible.

In complete support and solidarity with the fight to end racial injustice in our society, The Maneater asks that you take the time to contribute to donations and/or petitions that are plugged at the end of each article. The specific one linked below is in conjunction with “reparations for autistic people of color’s interdependence, survival, and empowerment”. Donate to the Autistic People of Color Fund at: https://autismandrace.com/autistic-people-of-color-fund/

Edited by Sofi Zeman l szeman@themaneater.com

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