The Introvert’s Guide To Talking Politics
It’s tough for an introvert to talk about politics because when things get loud, nobody listens to the introverted guy with the quiet voice. And political discussions almost always get loud. The last one I heard (but did not participate in) turned into a “suck” contest. A “suck” contest is when two or more participants tell each other they suck, much like the following (not quite fictional) exchange:
“Your mom sucks!”
Once Mom is brought into the “suck” contest, things always go downhill.
It’s easy to see why political discussions break down so easily. Government and law are full of boring details. I’m a boring guy, and even I don’t like the boring details in politics. So instead of talking about boring but important details, it’s easier just to say “You suck!” and move on. But that’s not very productive.
Political discussions should be treated with more respect. Government officials make (and usually break) the laws that the rest of us have to follow. It’s serious stuff. People in other countries kill each other over politics. Dozens of other countries have their own versions of Game of Thrones, and even George R. R. Martin doesn’t know how these conflicts are going to end (except that everybody gets killed; we just don’t know in what order). In the United States, we just call each other names and then get back to watching football or reading books.
I think I’m at least as intelligent as everybody else who talks politics, but I don’t do it because it always gets ugly. The good news is that over the last couple years I’ve discovered a few ways to talk about politics without destroying friendships or being thrown out of the family dinner. These techniques are so effective that even extroverts can use them, as long as the extrovert can be quiet long enough to hear the advice.
Maybe this is a cop-out. I don’t like conflict. When I hear people get angry, my stomach gets queasy. I try to avoid arguments at all costs. So when I hear people arguing about politics, I usually just turn around and leave. It’s the smart thing to do. But sometimes I can’t leave.
2. Change the subject.
Years ago, it was impossible to change the subject once political combatants got themselves embroiled in an ad hominem attack contest. It was tough to find another topic that everybody could suddenly switch to.
But smart phones and tablets have changed all of that. Whenever co-workers or friends or family members start arguing about politics, all I do now is find a mean cat video on my phone. Everybody loves mean cat videos, especially when the mean cat bites a guy in the crotch. Republicans, democrats, libertarians, it doesn’t matter. If a mean cat bites a guy in the crotch, everybody will laugh. And then they’ll stop talking about politics.
All an introvert has to do is say: “Hey, check out this mean cat!”
Even with my quiet voice, if I say “mean cat,” everybody pays attention. A mean cat video is an introvert’s best friend.
3. Agree, agree, agree!
If I feel like I must argue about politics, if I’m in a position where I feel my quiet voice must be heard, then I start off by agreeing with the people I disagree with. When trying to have a true discussion, it’s important not to come across as a partisan (even though I might be one) or an ideologue (even though I might be one). If I agree with the people I disagree with on some part of the discussion, they will be more likely to listen to me on the part where I disagree with them.
At least, they listen until they start yawning. When they start yawning, then I know they don’t want to talk politics anymore. The great thing about a monotone voice is that it can end political discussions quickly, but people have to listen to that monotone voice first.
4. Find a scapegoat.
Nothing unites opposing forces like a scapegoat. The United States needs a good scapegoat, but we don’t want to blame just anybody. We want to scapegoat somebody who’s powerful enough to defend himself/herself and won’t polarize a huge segment of the population. And if you’re looking for a small but powerful group of people, look no further than the Ivy League.
The Ivy League is the perfect scapegoat. The Ivy League can get scapegoated without Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or liberals, getting defensive. All of our last four presidents are from Ivy League schools. That’s over 26 years of Ivy Leaguers in the Executive Branch. That’s two democrats and two republicans. And you can make the case that all four of them sucked. And you can say that without offending ideologies or political parties.
I don’t mean that we should hunt down Ivy Leaguers and do mean things to them. I’m not into all that. I just mean we should blame them on political issues. If Ivy Leaguers are as smart as their disproportionate representation in positions of power suggests, they’ll understand how important it is that they allow themselves to get scapegoated. It’s important for the United States to be unified during these troubled times, and we can’t be unified as long as conservatives and liberals are so quick to blame each other for all of the country’s problems.
This is something that introverts and extroverts alike can agree on. If you want to blame somebody for all the country’s (or even the world’s) problems, blame the Ivy League. But please remember that an introvert thought of it first.
What do you think? How do you handle political discussions? What is better than a mean cat video to change the subject? If you are an Ivy Leaguer, are you willing to be scapegoated for the greater good of the country?
It’s not just about being polite. It’s not just about crap either. It’s about a bunch of other stuff too.
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