The Maneater

Column: We should attempt to stay rational when discussing hot button topics

Clashing views on political issues decrease the amount of discussion.

Lane Burdette / Graphic Designer

Madi Baughman is a freshman journalism and political science major at MU. She is an opinions columnist who writes about political and civil rights issues for The Maneater.

In President Donald Trump’s first year in office so far, the amount of executive orders and appointments coming through makes Washington, D.C. seem more chaotic than ever before. Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike have all been thrown for a loop at the pace in which we all have to digest this information. Some people are excited, some people are terrified and some do not have an opinion leaning toward one way or the other. One thing that is the same for everyone is that it is nearly impossible to escape discussion when all of our phones are buzzing with news updates every hour.

This brings up a question that many people have been wondering: How do we talk about politics in a school setting? The University of Missouri is a place that is filled with different people, and therefore, vastly different worldviews. It may feel like walking on thin ice when you are trying to have your voice heard and not offend someone at the same time.

The answer is simple: We express our opinions, but we also learn from the opinions of others.

Of course, there are unspoken rules to this solution. Being respectful is an absolute must, no matter how much you might disagree with someone. Not only is it kind of a no-brainer, but when someone explains something to you, you are more likely to listen to them — and actually get something out of it — when they are not insulting you or screaming in your face. We all have different ways that we see the world based on our own personal experience. Because of this, you will probably never truly be able to “walk in someone else’s shoes,” but you can do your best to see why someone has a certain worldview by listening to them.

In fact, studies done by researchers at Cornell University have proven that predominantly aggressive stances do little to nothing to make someone change their opinion. Think about it: If someone is insulting you and putting down your beliefs in an attempt to make you see a different side to the story, you are going to think, “This person is crazy. This is just another reason why I am right.” We are already predisposed to believe things that align with our worldview because of confirmation bias, so the most effective way to get someone to see what you are saying is through logic or emotion.

People who are quick to defend their beliefs without real evidence are stuck in a state of what psychologists call cognitive dissonance, which is an inconsistency in their thoughts or beliefs, especially as they relate to attitudes and decisions. Basically, this means that they have conflicting thoughts, and in an attempt to preserve self-identity, their brain will cling tightly to a certain belief or idea. This is a real problem when trying to discuss politics with an open mind, as you might imagine. Deep canvassing — taking conversations to a more personal level, leading the audience to realize for themselves the point that the canvassers are trying to get across — is one way to try to combat this, but not everyone is going to be swayed, and that is just a reality we have to face as opinionated citizens.

There is nothing wrong with expressing your political views; in fact, it is probably better to be able to have healthy discussion instead of keeping everything to ourselves. It allows us to broaden our viewpoints and gain valuable knowledge about the diversity of people’s lives and ideologies. Just remember to keep it respectful and to allow your own ideas to be challenged.

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