8 Simple Tips for Discussing Religion and Politics

How to have a conversation about religion or politics

I love discussing religion and politics with people! I learn so much from hearing other people’s points of view and I often find my perspectives about a topic will evolve as I get more information.

There’s an interesting quote that you may have seen on social media where it’s posted often. It summarizes what I want to discuss with you today:

“Instead of being taught Not to talk about religion
and politics, we should have been taught
how to have a civil conversation about them”

Source Unknown

Recently there has been a lot of talk about love and kindness toward each other. But what I am seeing is that our kindness and courtesy toward a person sometimes stops when we find out they think differently than we do. Instead of engaging in a civil conversation that could enlighten everyone participating, emotion takes over and politeness quickly evaporates and the conversation is shut down. We need more practice having difficult civil conversations that are passionate and at the same time remain courteous to those with different viewpoints. 

According to the dictionary, a civil conversation is a courteous and polite informal exchange of ideas by spoken words. One person listens while the other speaks and then the second person speaks while the first person listens.

All of us come to believe the things we do based on the information we have been exposed to through our life experiences. Even if you and I agree that the latest blockbuster movie was amazing we might totally disagree on why it was so good. The same goes for the way we vote in elections.  We both might be voting for a particular ballot measure but the reasons we are voting for the measure might be entirely different. Even in our similarities, we have differences.

8 Simple Tips for Discussing Religion and Politics

Try Bold Kindness

Realize this… as much as you know – you actually don’t know everything.  People who think differently from you are not stupid. Their conclusions are based on something. Treat them kindly -ask good questions like:

Could you tell me more about that?
Have you always thought that way about xyz? 
What is it about xyz that appeals to you? 


Asking questions kindly shows respect. The more you show respect to someone the more likely they are to respect you and consider your opinion even if they disagree with you.

Practice Confident Humility

Realize even if you are an expert on a subject you don’t know everything. Approach the conversation as a chance to learn something about the topic from someone else’s point of view.  Their personal knowledge combined with life experiences etc…has them coming to a different conclusion—ask them: How did you come to that conclusion? 

Listen up and Wait for Your Turn!!

If you know you tend to be argumentative – do your best to listen more than you speak. Your natural tendency to argue can cause you to develop rebuttals in your brain instead of listening thoroughly to the other person. For the length of the conversation — follow the path of the other person’s reasoning. It’s not going to hurt you or your cause if you don’t interrupt with a correction.  Wait your turn to speak and what you have to say is more likely to be received.  

Be smart!

One conversation is probably not going to change someone’s point of view. But one conversation can be very impactful. Consider your limited amount of time and the benefit of seeking to understand more than you are seeking to be understood. What you learn can be helpful in a couple of ways. One, if you didn’t get a chance to share then at the end you can say, “I heard what you said about xyz, I am sorry there wasn’t time to share my thoughts. But when you are thinking about this topic I’d ask you to consider such and such, or check out this web site which explains my position. Two, use the current information you learned in a conversation with the next person. “I was talking to someone the other day who thinks xyz but I see it totally differently what do you think?”

Ask for Consent Before you Share

When your point of view is different from the other person’s ask them “I see things completely differently. Would you mind if I shared my perspective?” Then share your perspective. State the facts as you understand them and your experiences which led to your conclusion.  

Agree to Disagree

Your opinions might be based on knowledge however, it’s actually possible for two people to come to different conclusions with the same knowledge. Asking someone how they came to their conclusions is a civil way to gain understanding and cooperation. Keep in mind — Sometimes what we are disagreeing about is simply a preference—it’s your opinion, it’s neither right or wrong. 

No Name-Calling

Unless you are 4 years old and don’t know any better, calling someone names or labeling them with a derogatory term or phrase is not a helpful way to have a conversation. If you find yourself getting frustrated — let them know, “I am trying to understand things from your point of view but I see things entirely differently and I am frustrated that we don’t agree. I appreciate your sharing with me and I will think about the things you said, but right now I need to take a break from talking about xyz.”

See the Value in Civilly Discussing Tough Topics

Where we have differences there is potential for conflict and when the conflict isn’t handled healthfully there can be a loss of kindness and love. When that lack of love and kindness is spread out over a community there becomes a lack of trust and without an element of trust there becomes a breakdown in society. Realize how you handle disagreements has the potential to affect a wide range of people – your family, your friends, your co-workers, your neighbors. A civil conversation about important topics isn’t wimpy it is strength controlled – which is good for everyone involved.

Final Thoughts

There’s value for all of us in civilly discussing hard topics. When we have differences there is potential for conflict and when the conflict isn’t handled healthfully there can be a loss of kindness and love. When that lack of love and kindness is spread out over a community there becomes a lack of trust and without an element of trust there becomes a breakdown in society.

Realize that how you handle disagreements has the potential to affect a wide range of people – your family, your friends, your co-workers, your neighborhood.  A civil conversation about important topics isn’t wimpy it is strength controlled – which is good for everyone involved. You might even find you’ve changed someone’s mind!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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