Skip to content

The Introvert’s Guide To Talking Politics

January 11, 2015
If you value the family or friendship, then don't talk politics.  (image via wikimedia)

If you value the family or friendship, then don’t talk politics. (image via wikimedia)

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:

“Republicans suck!”

“Democrats suck!”

“You suck!”

“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.

 1. Leave

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?

From → Dysfunctileaks

  1. Avoid, just avoid:)

  2. I really, really like the Ivy League scapegoat plan. As an introvert, I’m very practiced at eye rolls and laughing. The political discussion folks move away from me. Evidently Crazy Listener is another good plan.

  3. Maybe for shy people?- Introverts aren’t necessarily shy, extroverts can be shy too. Interesting read though 🙂

  4. nikkif181 permalink

    Avoidance and change the subject are what I done when things turn political. If that doesn’t work then I quickly find an excuse to leave.

  5. I went to a university that is frequently scapegoated (probably more than an average Ivy League school) for behavior and attitudes that I don’t share myself. So I don’t think it’s fair for me to be scapegoated for going there.
    So instead, I try to find common ground – because there are outcomes that both sides find reasonable even when they don’t agree on exact solution. And if they try hard to still disagree, I guess I could try a mean cat video

  6. payal1998 permalink

    Being an introvert, I actually like to listen to other people’s opinions. Maybe because I know my rat voice wouldn’t hold out for long anyway but oh well.

  7. I’m a strange one, I guess. I just so happen to be an introvert with very (and I mean VERY) strong convictions. Also, I’m stubborn and defensive as hell. If it’s something I feel strongly about, I find it impossible to just stay out of it or to “agree agree agree”. So, depending on my mood, I either leave the vicinity of the conversation or I step out of my comfortable bubble and join the battle. I may be an introvert, but I do have a backup suit of armor for when I deem it necessary to leave the bubble.

    You see, I prefer to be alone most of the time. I prefer quiet nights watching TV over clubbing or big gatherings. I prefer to sit in silence and reflect instead of blaring music and chicken wings, and I prefer to read a book rather than going skiing, zip lining, or to a theme park. Most conversation, especially small talk wears me out. However, I am in no way afraid of confrontation, nor do I feel too inferior to have and express an opinion.

    Now, I wouldn’t even bother listening if the discussion was of the “suck” variety. I can’t imagine anyone with a maturity level that would allow them to use “you suck” as a rebuttal during a legitimate political discussion to even be qualified to debate the topics. However, if it were truly an intelligent debate, it would catch my interest, and if someone was arguing against my aforementioned rock solid convictions, I’d be out of that bubble in a heartbeat. However, I have run into people who won’t even listen to what anyone else is saying. They simply repeat the same close-minded crap over and over. In those cases, I simply grab my bubble and leave.

    If there’s one thing I love more than my bubble and value above my preference for quiet and introspection, it’s a good ole healthy intellectual debate. I guess you could say the only way through this introverts bubble is through her mind. 🙂 lol

  8. honey you’ve read my mind. are you sure you’re not me?

  9. I always go to neutral mediator status, and I find myself playing devil’s advocate for both sides. The ones I avoid at family reunions are religious discussions. Yeesh.

  10. I generally just acknowledge what they’re saying, then change the subject as soon as possible.

  11. I am introverted, and I approve this message. However, I love politics, if only as a hobby, so when politics come up in a conversation, I try to listen and sound reasonable. If all else fails, I simply try to sound like the adult in the room.

  12. I’m on board. Ivy leaguers suck. Who would have thought that that simple phrase could fix Washington and make introverts feel more comfortable at parties in one fell swoop. Just wait till it catches on. Republicans and democrats across the nation will be holding hands. Barrack Obama will be seen hugging John Boehner or Boner or however the hell you say it. But that’s the point; it doesn’t matter how you say it anymore because all conversations about politics will start and end with those most important three words: Ivy leaguers suck. Perhaps we could add the word balls to the end of that? I’ve always preferred a twist of emasculation with my political propaganda.

    • I’ve been watching MSNBC, FOX News, and CNN (all at the same time plus football!!!), and none of them have started hassling the Ivy League yet. We’ve got our work cut out for us.

  13. InstaScribe permalink

    Ha ha ha! I follow all these strategies, when my husband and father-in-law start discussing politics. Unfortunately, I still fail in all except #1!

    – Jaya

  14. annamalei permalink

    Reblogged this on You came to the right place..

  15. Reblogged this on My Open Letters to… and commented:
    Dear Dysfunctional Literacy,

    I read through your blog on an ‘Introvert’s Guide to Politics’ with some disdain. Please understand that I do quite enjoy your posts usually, but this one has ignited Eeyore levels of despair.

    Fundamentally, your blog seems to propose that the general public needs to unify and co-operate with one another, an idea which is impossible to not be on board with.
    Unfortunately, the end is achieved through lazy means, with a fairly large group of people (of which I am very much a part of) branding a portion of the graduate population to scapegoat status. On top of that, you suggest the best way to talk about politics would be to… not talk about politics.

    Addressing the latter first, it should be pointed out that if we’re going to be introverts, then we need to find a way to have our voices heard. That’s a fairly basic point; if you want to make an impact anywhere on anything, you need to speak and make yourself heard. Avoiding confrontations is a ‘cop-out’, and leads to the overwhelming silence that you enjoy in America and I in the UK. It can lead to people deciding their vote doesn’t matter, and lower voter turn out.
    Silence is a confirmation of the status-quo, and thus counter-productive to your overall argument.

    There is more credence to the argument that we should unify and try to find some way to work with each other through a common point of interest. However, rather than uniting over a positive point of interest like ‘Free Giant Teddy-Bears For All’ (a.k.a FGTBFA), you seem to suggest that we unite over a negative.
    Unconventional, but I could work with people uniting to shame the current inability of Mitch McConnell’s house to put into place real change. An absolute condemnation of inactivity and failure to serve makes sense.
    Instead, you suggest we scapegoat the Ivy League. Here, in the UK, that would be the equivalent of Oxbridge (Oxford and Cambridge). Like the US, a lot of our leaders have attended Oxbridge and, at the moment, a disproportionate number of our Cabinet is made up of Oxbridge alumni.
    So, obviously, there has been fair amount of criticism of for the monopoly held by Oxbridge over political discourse, with many labelling them as out of touch.
    And as true as this claim may be, it is not something to be united over. It should be regretted and changed, a process which will take time, but to simply blame and scapegoat Oxbridge for producing politicians would make about as much sense as scapegoating all Muslims for a group of extremists.
    Your line of argument allows the minority to represent the majority.
    Of course, you counter this by claiming

    “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.”

    Not to sound cynical, but intellect does not equal power. Incredibly dull people can come to power and I won’t furnish you with examples, because they don’t need to be given – he cannot be misunderestimated.
    That’s also assuming all Ivy League places are always given to the smartest candidates, not the most eligible.
    Sadly, it seems that you have mistaken correlation for causation or, at the very least, are happy to misappropriate one for the other.

    Your other points don’t really merit a play-by-play deconstruction; cat videos (however hilarious) fall under the issue of silence and ignoring the problem, whilst I actually agree to some extent with your third bullet point.
    In fact, I think your third bullet point can be summed up in one word – Compromise.

    I like compromise. It can be frustrating not getting exactly what you want, but meeting in the middle is what is at the centre of all good diplomacy; weighing up all the options to produce a workable result for all.
    In heart, I agree with your fourth idea too, as through unity compromise can be found.
    Scapegoating will never be a productive answer though. It only leads to further divisions and, in this case, the alienation of the ‘smart’ people.
    And you don’t wanna piss them off, ‘cos they’re the people you have identified as in power.

    I look forward to reading more of your posts. Apologies if this comes off as ranting.

    Yours sincerely,

    P.S. I know you are humourous in you posts but this pushed some buttons. The jokes seemed misplaced here and I needed to register my reaction to it.

    • i agree with all of this except the compromise part. sometimes a position is verifiably and quantifiably wrong

  16. you have to keep things light. humor helps. it is also extremely important to be succinct. people don’t have patience to listen to someone blabber about the nuances of quantitative easing or aggregate demand, so you have to keep things as simple and as engaging as possible. ask questions and use these questions to dive deeper into their beliefs. a lot of people can be defused just by asking specific questions about what they would do if they were in charge. the fight against ISIS is a good example. people whine all day about what Obama is doing, but if you probe them for what they would do they usually draw a blank. knowing which questions to ask takes practice and patience.

    the hardest thing is trying to politely tell people that they are wrong. sometimes the truth isn’t in the middle and one person is verifiably and quantifiably wrong about something, and you shouldn’t just “agree to disagree” when there is data the provides an answer. use empiricism, not ideological or rhetorical appeals. sometimes you can find a middle ground. other times, one person is extremely wrong.

    i disagree with finding a random scapegoat. Ivy League schools are the gold standard for higher education by nearly every national and international metric, so attacking them is attacking one of the few things that the US can still claim to be the best at. they also do some of the best analysis of various social and economic issues in the US, so you don’t want to demonize them when you may want to use them to prove a point later on. find the real cause of the problem and make it apparent why they are to blame.

    having political discussions is extremely important for the political process, and it’s stupid that there is a taboo on it in the US. many people consider their political beliefs to be a part of their personality and identity, so by telling them that their political beliefs are wrong they can also feel like they are being attacked on a personal level. you have to be delicate

    you may get insulted (not so much in real life, but a lot on facebook.) if you get insulted, ignore the insults and focus on the issue. don’t be like “well that’s an ad hom” because then you sound like a dork. gloss over the insults, they’re useless filler. it’s easy to ignore insults if you are very secure in your positions, which brings me to the final point

    the most important thing is to be right, and know that you are right, and know why you are right. make sure everything you say can be backed up, preferably by something peer-reviewed. if a newspaper’s take on a study seems dubious, look up the study itself and read the abstract. look for things on .edu domains and pdfs. exercise your bullshit detector by reading stuff that you know is bullshit. if you cite a study and someone dismisses it with “blah blah liberal harvard ivory tower” then just ask them for a specific critique of the study.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: