Since GE2020 was announced last week, the internet and WhatsApp chats have been abuzz with news and opinions. Family chatgroups are not spared. As our children grow up, they may express opinions and thoughts that are different from ours. The elderly too possess their own set of perspectives.
How can we discuss politics calmly and constructively, especially with family members who hold differing opinions?
Is it possible to debate whilst keeping relationships strong?
What issues are your grown-up children concerned about? How do parents and grandparents who have gone through Singapore’s transformation from third to first world feel?
We all have a story.
Here are some tips on how to engage with one another even if our opinions are as different as chalk and cheese.
1. Seek to understand
Respect is key in trying to understand the other person’s viewpoints. By being respectful and curious, you essentially allow others to adopt a non-defensive position, creating a conducive environment in which it is enjoyable and easy to learn something new.
2. Listen attentively
People automatically know when you are not really listening. Within the family, this is played out repeatedly – parents know when their kids are ignoring them and teens definitely know when parents are distracted.
Sometimes, it is easy to switch off when you realise that the other person holds opposing views. However, this polarising attitude is harmful because it may cause unnecessary tension and division.
Instead, listen with an open mind as well as an open heart. Try to put yourself in the speaker’s shoes and see where they are coming from, and refrain from being too quick to argue against them. Listening well means that even if you are supporting different parties, you can be united as a family.
3. Separate the issues from the person
An opinion about politics is just that – an opinion. Just because someone disagrees with you doesn’t mean he or she is a terrible person.
Try not to make the matter personal by judging others based on what they share. This visualisation may be helpful: Imagine you and your family members standing in a circle, forming a ring. The issues and views that are being debated are in the centre of this ring. By keeping your eye on the issues being discussed and resolved, you will be able to maintain the unity of the family even if you sometimes don’t see eye to eye.
4. Value connection
There is a cultural tendency to avoid hard conversations because we don’t want to threaten relationships. However, this often results in an avoidance culture at home where sensitive topics are simply swept under the carpet.
Discussing hard topics respectfully and calmly can actually make your relationships stronger.
If emotions run high and words turn belligerent during discussions, douse those fires with respect, genuine listening and kind words. Remember that your family members are entitled to their own opinions and just because someone’s opinion is different, it doesn’t mean they are against you.
At the end of the day, if you prioritise connection over conversion, your family will likely become stronger and closer.
© 2020 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.
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