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With two weeks remaining until election day, political discussions are becoming almost unavoidable. Debating over the candidates and current political issues are inevitable during this time of year, especially right before one of the most important presidential elections in our nation’s history. Many people are afraid of having conversations about politics because they don’t like the conflict that surrounds debating important issues.

As somebody who is not too comfortable with confrontation, I can understand the apprehension towards having these conversations, but they are way too important to avoid purely because you are uncomfortable. 

These difficult conversations are how we progress towards a more perfect and fair union. If we continue to shy away from these discussions, we will remain dangerously divided and forever stuck in our current state. We need to be more comfortable talking to people who disagree with us, or else America will never be the land of the free, only the land of the oppressed. 

As daunting as it may seem, having these conversations is really not that hard. All you have to do is follow three simple steps and you will be able to hold your own in any discussion.

Know what you’re talking about.

The first step to feeling comfortable discussing important political issues is educating yourself on the topic at hand. You don’t have to read scholarly papers or anything super time consuming, but simply reading a few articles on the issue at hand will give you a more solidified opinion on the topic. Being prepared will make you feel more confident in yourself and your ability to hold your own in a conversation, which is half the battle. 

When researching, it is important to read up on both your beliefs and the opposition’s. Learning both sides of an issue will help you understand all of the different impacts that it has on people, allowing you to form a concrete stance before you discuss with others. This will also help you explain your side better to those that oppose you because you can understand where they are coming from. 

Stay confident and collected.

Political discussions are intimidating and being confident in yourself makes these conversations much more approachable. There’s no need to be afraid to discuss differences in opinions, especially when you have followed the first step and have educated yourself on the topic. At the end of the day, it’s just two people having a conversation. It is an incredibly low-risk situation with nothing to worry about and by staying relaxed and confident, you will be able to properly share your ideas and have a civilized conversation with the other person.

With that being said, these conversations can often get heated and it is important to remember that progress is made through conversing, not fighting. It is understandable to get frustrated when the person you are talking to is ignorant to the effects that their beliefs have on other communities, but it helps nobody to respond with anger. Instead, try to stay level-headed and explain how their beliefs are harmful. 

Listen.

Half of a conversation happens without even opening your mouth. Truly listening to your conversational counterpart is arguably the most important part of constructive discussions. The point of having these conversations is to hear different viewpoints and become more aware of the impacts of an issue, something that is impossible to do if you don’t listen to the other person. Our current political climate is a direct result of leaders who refuse to listen. This is perfect evidence that in order to move forward, we need to listen to all sides of an argument.

There is a widely held stigma that changing your mind is weak or an act of betrayal, when really it is the opposite. If you have a constructive conversation that opens your eyes to issues that you had never known about before and changes your opinion to one that is more considerate to others, you should be proud, not ashamed. Change is made through listening and adapting and the action that truly shows weakness is stubbornly sticking with beliefs that actively harm others. 

Are having conversations on touchy subjects that involve religion and discrimination difficult to have? Yes. Is that an excuse to avoid these conversations? Absolutely not. 

We can only change the world for the better by educating ourselves on the issues that affect the diverse group of citizens in this country and having calm, constructive conversations where we truly listen and understand why someone believes what they do. Our country needs improving, and the only way that can be accomplished is through working together. 

It is no longer acceptable to sit on the sidelines as your peers are being discriminated against in this country every single day. Educate yourself on political issues and have meaningful discussions with people with different viewpoints than your own. It is imperative that we remember that we are in fact a united nation, especially in these times of intense division. 

Ben Goldberger is a sophomore at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He can be reached atbgoldbe3@vols.utk.edu.

Columns and letters of The Daily Beacon are the views of the individual and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Beacon or the Beacon's editorial staff.

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