How to Talk About Controversial Topics Without Arguing

How to Talk About Controversial Topics Without Arguing

Religion. Sexual orientation. Politics. What do these three things have in common? Well they’re probably all topics you’d probably rather not have come up in conversation! These topics tend to be ones that people have vastly different, and often conflicting, opinions on.

The question is how do you, believing one thing yourself, avoid an argument when someone who is on the opposite side comes into the conversation?

There are three things you can do in order to avoid an argument, and avoid making someone feel uncomfortable. We’ll start with the easiest tactic and make our way to the most difficult.

1. Walk Away

Most people see this as a cop out, but it is quite the opposite. If you are astute enough to recognize that entering into a conversation with someone about a controversial topic is only going to lead to mindless arguing, walking away can be the mature and smart decision to make.

Some people just don’t know how to have a civil discussion when it comes to differing beliefs. In such cases, it’s not worth it to argue it out with them.

The argument could be something as simple as whether your right wing views surpass the left wing views of your friend. Why ruin a friendship over this when you could instead simply walk away?

Be confident enough in your own beliefs and opinions to not have to defend them at all times. Someone believing something different than you doesn’t automatically threaten your beliefs, nor is it a slight toward you personally. Walk away, accepting that different beliefs can often be a non-issue when it comes to having some form of a relationship with someone.

Have a Debate
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2. Have a Debate

This is a little more difficult to do, but, if done correctly and civilly, then both parties should walk away satisfied.

Perhaps the topic of same sex marriage rights comes up in conversation and your friend voices their opinion on being against it. Take this time to offer a friendly debate.

Simply ask why they think it’s wrong, making sure you push them to give you legitimate reasons (not “because it’s gross”). The majority of the time religion comes into play, even if the person isn’t normally religious. Point this out, nicely, and ask if they have any other reasons.

When it’s your turn to state your side of things, make sure you keep your tone level and non-threatening. Sometimes our passion for a topic can cause us to take on a tone that seems angry or judgmental, even if that’s not what we meant to convey.

As well, make sure you carefully word your argument. The last thing you want is to put the other person on the defensive, otherwise your debate is quickly going to dissolve into pointless arguing instead of being a productive discussion.

Try to keep things light. For example, in such a debate you could say something like, “Why shouldn’t same sex couples be given the right to the same happiness heterosexual couples share?”

Understand and Relate to Their Side
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3. Understand and Relate to Their Side

This may be one of the most difficult things to do, but again, when done correctly you tend to feel like a bigger person in the end. Religion comes up in conversation and you, having no religious beliefs, aren’t sure what to do.

The other party notes your hesitation on the topic and begins a friendly debate. Try to understand where they are coming from.

For example, maybe they have been raised by Catholic parents, so their beliefs are deeply ingrained in their upbringing and memories of childhood. Perhaps you can think of something you were brought up believing, that they may not agree with.

This can help you understand where they are coming from. You wouldn’t want them arguing against your belief, so why belittle them because of theirs?

While you are debating, try to phrase things so it invites them to see things from your perspective. For example, “There are things in the Bible that don’t logically make sense to me” is much better than saying “The Bible isn’t logical and doesn’t make any sense.”

You can also explain to them exactly how you came to believe what you believe, allowing them to see the roots of your opinions. This should encourage them to do the same, which gives you the opportunity to see things from their perspective.

Even if you still don’t agree with their side of things, being able to understand someone else is a valuable experience.

If these three steps are attempted, altogether or individually, then an argument can almost always be avoided. We all have different views on certain topics, so why target someone due to theirs?

In your head you think their belief is wrong, and in their head yours is wrong. You can’t change someone’s beliefs by attacking them, so try one of the above three steps instead!