How to keep it cordial when talking politics with friends


Salt Lake City, Utah- (ABC4 Utah) – The 2016 election is dividing our country in ways we’ve never seen. With the two most unpopular candidates in the history of polling topping the ticket, conversations can be polarizing and volatile.

A recent study of thousands of potential voters finds you don’t have to stay silent or get caught up in a malicious rant.

If you disagree with someone it all comes down to how you present your opposing views.

Every where we turn there are signs of the 2016 Presidential Election.

Registered voter, Nathan Hoopes says it’s like nothing he’s ever seen before.

“I think for the first time it’s not about the policies, what the candidates stand for. I think it’s about what they have done, what their past is, and people have a lot of strong personal feelings about the candidates,” said Hoopes. 

Those strong personal feelings are fueling toxic conversations across the country, in person and on social media.

And engaging with friends and family can be a risky move.

“We’ve actually measured this. We found that close to a majority of people say they’ve had a relationship damaged or ended, because of expressing a political opinion,” said New York Times Best Selling Author, Joseph Grenny.

Grenny and fellow New York Times Best Selling Author, David Maxfield recently studied the impact of talking politics on more than 3,600 potential voters.

It found today’s environment is highly charged.

“Every four years we do a survey to see what’s separating and what’s uniting us just before the elections. And this is the most polarized we’ve ever seen the electorate,” said Maxfield.  

But, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to keep it cordial.

“It turns out that people were more interested in continuing a conversation with someone who disagreed with them, than someone who agreed with them. If they presented it in a reasonable way,” said Grenny.

Grenny and Maxfield say you can preserve those relationships by practicing four skills when presenting political views.

First, approach the conversation wanting to learn, rather than trying to convince.

“I just want to know why you think what you think. I’m curious about that, I’m interested. You know, you seem like a reasonable, decent person. So, why have you come to a completely different opinion than mine? You just come with that motive and it changes the entire tenor,” said Grenny.

Second, ask for permission and establish limits.

“My opinion on gun control, or whatever you want to talk about is really different from yours. I’d like to explain it, if you’d like, but if you don’t want to that’s fine to,” said Maxfield.

Third, generate and express respect.

“Just showing a modicum of respect, not necessarily for their opinion, but the person helps create some psychological safety,” said Grenny.

Fourth, look for common ground.

“We both value our community. We want a community that’s safe, and where peoples jobs are strong. I guess we agree on that, so can we look at this difference in the context of where we agree,” said Maxfield. 

Steps that could help heal wounds in our personal circles.

“I’ve seen people at church stop talking. Yeah, I’ve seen it. Facebook, lots of stuff there,” said Hoopes.          

Grenny and Maxfield point out these steps aren’t just limited to politics.

They can help in crucial conversations on any subject.

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Glen Mills

Chief Political Correspondent

For this Beetdigger and Ute it’s an honor to be doing what he loves in his home state! Glen is an award-winning journalist, who joined the ABC4 News team in June 2013. You can catch him anchoring ABC4 News at 5 and 6, Monday through Friday. He also serves as our Senior Political Correspondent, keeping you up to date on issues that impact your life at the city, state and national level. His political reports run throughout the week, and he hosts Inside Utah Politics, Sunday mornings at 8. The Utah Headliners Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has recognized Glen as the best government and military television reporter in the state. Before returning home to Utah, he spent 11 1/2 years developing his journalism skills in other states. He held various on-air and management positions at KPVI in Pocatello, Idaho, WGBA in Green Bay, Wisconsin and KKCO in Grand Junction, Colorado during that time. Read More...