• Sun, 21, Jul, 2019 - 5:00:AM

Five tips for engaging in political discourse

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With things like social media and online petitions helping to engage people in politics, more people than ever are making their political stance heard – many of them from the younger generations.

But while 2019 seems like the best time to be politically vocal, wherever discussions around ethics and beliefs come into play, things are bound to heat up. Sometimes political discourse can be completely unhelpful, especially in – but not limited to – the cyber-sphere. The level of anonymity provided by social media has produced more inflammatory, repetitive and misleading arguments than I can count.

Whether your conversations are typed or spoken, here are some things to keep in mind when engaging in political discourse.

1. Make sure your facts are correct and specific

Someone’s political stance is a powerful mix of facts and beliefs. The values we have, informed by the information we know. The statistics we use need to be correct and appropriate to have a truly productive discussion. For example, using a case study of a country who regulated guns and then saw increased crime is misleading if gun-related deaths dropped (proving that the legislation was successful) and unrelatedly petty crime rose. Avoid vague and skewed facts like these. Also keep in mind that given the mix of beliefs and facts that make up political viewpoints, statistics alone are unlikely to change other people’s minds.

2. Don’t resort to insults

It’s easy to get upset or frustrated when someone has a different opinion to yours. They can be so fixed in their stance – just like we are – and no amount of facts, reasoning or thought experiments will budge them. But insulting people doesn’t help. Nit-picking at someone’s spelling mistake (which I am also guilty of) and name-calling detracts from the original purpose of political discourse, which is to consider different points of view. Learn to do battle without making it personal.

3. Find what you have in common

Often political discourse can be divisive. We use one topic as a line to place between those who agree and those who don’t. If you’re not on my side, then you are not a good person. Polarising conversations are not helpful, because at the end of the day, the entire general population is responsible for making democratic changes. Finding the beliefs we have in common can help us reach beneficial compromises faster.

4. Battling a troll goes nowhere

Seeing the common values across groups of people is something I advocate for in most discussions, except when it comes to trolls. This applies more for online discourse where people are emboldened to say things they never would in real life. When you encounter someone who distributes purposefully inflammatory, false and mocking content, resist the urge to respond. Even if the way they talked about women made your blood boil. Even if that statistic has been widely debunked. The interaction just promotes their content, and they thrive on attention. They win when they manage to break your cool, so don’t let them.

5. Never take someone else’s opinion to heart

Sometimes you meet people who aren’t faceless, alias-ed trolls but are just as hurtful. The ones you encounter whose political beliefs marginalise and harm people, not for attention like a troll, but because they truly think that way. These people are rare, but they exist. The best we can do is present our side of the story and move on if it’s not received well. You don’t have to respect everyone’s opinions (especially when they are discriminatory) but they will exist regardless. What we can do is have more conversations with our family, friends and on our platforms to keep spreading awareness of the issues we’re passionate about.

The way forward is not by adding to the hate proliferating in political debates, but by sharing compassion, respect and acceptance.


  • Politics /
  • Activism /
  • Discourse /
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