Money. Religion. Politics.

There’s some “common sense” that says we shouldn’t discuss money, religion, or politics in polite company. Think about the last conversation that you had where one of these topics came up. Maybe it was with your father-in-law, a co-worker, or that weird neighbor that gives you the stink eye.

Pause for just a second.

What was the specific topic?

What was said?

What was happening at that exact moment when your body tensed up?

How did you react?

Don't fan the flames of anger!

Don’t fan the flames of anger!

Maybe you became offended? Maybe you thought, “Man, this guy has no clue what he’s talking about. If he only knew what I knew.”? Did you fire back words or shut down and leave as quickly as possible?

When I’m not fully present, I sometimes get triggered into irritation when I feel like the other person is just preaching at me. Not really listening, but talking at me and trying to convince me of their point-of-view. My heart feels like lead and I begin launching a series of one-liners trying to get the other person to just. shut. up.

You are the reason we can’t talk about these topics.

(And me, too, on a not-so-present day.)

What would it take to create a conversation where we could discuss money, religion, and politics and not become offended? It’s actually pretty easy: stop being offended because someone thinks differently than you and expresses it differently than you’d prefer. Allow the other person to own their opinions. That tenseness you (I) feel is because you (I) want to defend your (my) stance and change theirs. Stop it.

Allow opinions, thoughts, and insights to be more like a beach ball that can be tossed around, held for a few seconds, and then tossed back. Allow that other person the space to have their perspective, while also recognizing that your perspective is equally valid.

We’re all looking for validation on some level.

Isn't this more fun?

Isn’t this more fun?

But here’s the real secret: we’re not looking for validation of our opinions. We’re looking for validation of our very humanness. The beach ball is just a diversion.

Turn the conversation into a friendly game of toss, not a sparring match. Instead of trying to get your point across. Could you listen and ask questions instead?

What would change?

How would you change?

Mostly, I enjoy talking about money, politics, and religion with complete strangers. I love just listening and seeing who can play beach ball with me. A close friend and I are on different ends of the political spectrum and used to verbally spar about it. Our spouses would leave the room when we started up. Our friends would say, “Don’t bring that up when they’re here.”

And now we make jokes at our own expenses. We laugh at each other and give each other fist bumps at a well-timed joke about Obamacare, the war machine, patriotism, Congress. The point is not to change each other’s minds, but to be friends despite our differences. To have someone to count on when my husband and I recently needed advice, to have someone to count on to watch our dogs, to share vacations with, to raise our children together. That’s the point.

 

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