Tired of Being Trapped in Political ‘Discussions’ Otherwise Known as “Rants?” Here’s What to Say….

With the upcoming election, there seems to be a lot of people obsessing about politics lately. And for some reason, many of them want to talk to me about it.  About how bad Obama is; about the faces Biden made in the debate; about how the economy sucks; about the crazy conservative agenda to overturn Roe v. Wade and on and on and on.  “Talk” is the operative word here because there doesn’t seem to be much listening going on.  I sometimes feel as if I could put up a lifesize cardboard cutout of myself and they wouldn’t notice.

I am not politically oriented, never have been.  I know some wonderful people who are in office and others who don’t have my respect at all.  I am far more interested in watching teams of food craftsmen battle it out on the Food Network’s “Halloween Wars” than I am in watching Red v. Blue interrupt, attempt to outshout, and make each other wrong on national TV.

Recently a dear friend whom I don’t get to see very often got started on a political rant.  He owns a business and was convinced that Obama was the cause of every thing that was going ‘wrong’ in our country.  Like many people who believe their version of the world is ‘the truth’, he cited ‘evidence’ that proved his view to be the ‘correct one.’  I wanted to be considerate of the things that were important to him, so I didn’t say anything at first.  I don’t have ‘evidence’ at hand that I could use to comment with so I didn’t respond, even though I could tell he really wanted me to agree with him.  Suddenly I noticed that my chest had grown tight with anxiety and so I interrupted my good friend.

Me:  “I’m sorry to interrupt you but I just noticed how I am feeling about this topic.  I have zero influence in the political realm, and talking about something over which I have no control or input, makes me feel helpless.  When I feel helpless my chest gets tight, I feel anxious and my peace of mind goes away.  There are plenty of other topics we can talk about that would be more fun for me so can we switch to something more enjoyable?”

I observe that many times when we feel helpless about something, we often complain instead of taking action, and politics seems to be a big trigger for that. I can see why—large numbers of people are affected by the decisions of a few.  However, I have found that if something really bothers me, then I am served well by spending time creating a constructive action to take about it instead of adding my voice to the uproar.  It was also a great feeling to have found a way to extract myself from a conversation in a manner that was respectful to both of us.

So here are my suggestions the next time you find yourself on the receiving end of a ‘powerless’ rant:

1.  Be respectful.  “I’m sorry to interrupt you….”

2.  Be honest about what is going on with you.  “…but I just noticed about how I am feeling about this topic.”  Make it about you, not about what a jerk you think they are by going on a rant.

3.  Give a brief explanation.  “Talking about issues over which I have no control makes me feel powerless.”  This makes it clear as to what is bothering you.

4.  Make a request.  “Can we find a topic to talk about that is fun for both of us?”

 

The more that I have done this, the more I found that people are very willing to switch topics and all have had a true concern for talking about something that made me uncomfortable.  Now, when I see a rant coming, I simply say, “I don’t engage in political (or any other highly charged) discussions.  Talking about something over which I have no influence makes me feel powerless and I’d rather talk about something else.  Can we do that please?”

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