DEAR HARRIETTE: I consider myself pretty liberal politically. I stay up to date on current events and history. So I was a bit taken aback when I was talking to a colleague about a somewhat political topic of the day and she scoffed and told me she didn’t want to talk about it anymore because she didn’t agree with me. Clearly, she was implying that I wasn’t radical or strong enough in my views since my ideas didn’t match hers. Really? It seems like everything is so politically divided now that it’s not possible to discuss ideas. People seem to want you to choose their side, or they shut down. I would like to debate ideas and talk about different perspectives. Am I being unrealistic? -- Politically Active
DEAR POLITICALLY ACTIVE: It is important to be able to debate the topics of the day, especially when the outcomes could have a dramatic impact on all of our lives. It is also important to note that there is a broad range of views on many hot topics, and you can never be sure where people land on these ideas.
You may want to frame your political discussions differently. Let people know that you appreciate learning about how they think and what their views are on different ideas. Do not presume that others share your opinions, and make it known that you want to learn from differing perspectives. When conversations get heated, make it a point to say that you hope people will go for it and express their views, as this is how we learn and grow.
You may want to state that you appreciate creating safe spaces where people feel free to express themselves without judgment. Welcome the intensity, but ask participants to challenge you and others without being rude or disrespectful. Some people may not agree with you and clam up anyway, but at least you can do your best to create a safe space for dialogue.