What you can do to stop or change political arguments: Bring a Notepad

people taking notes on a table

If I know I’m even getting into the possibility of getting into a heated political discussion, I carry a pocket notepad and a key chain pen. The notepad I carry fits in my wallet. It’s a moleskin 2.5 x 4, just a bit larger than a credit card. You can find key chain pens that won’t get in the way and be available in an instant.

People will notice, so be prepared

When people start getting in a political discussion, grab your pen and notepad and jot down the topic that has been brought up at the top of the paper. Don’t say anything about what you’re doing until they ask you. The one thing you don’t want, is to appear holier-than-thou and start talking about yourself taking notes. Chances are you will be ridiculed by those who think they are superior in their thinking. 

Instead, take a more open approach when asked about what you’re doing and tell them something similar to the following:

  1. “I’m just jotting some questions and, hopefully, other points of view I get to take home with me for further research”
  2. “I’m of an indie political point of view and am indexing viewpoints from as many people as possible.”
  3. “I don’t claim to know everything, but I want to know as much as I can. I’m writing down ideas that I can research on my own time. Maybe you can answer some of these for me”

Then to move the conversation along, always end with: 

“Now you were discussing (topic at top of your notepad), please tell me (us) about that” 

If they ask more questions about what you’re doing, just tell them it’s too much to cover and direct them to search “indie political” in their search engines for more information. This website will take it from there.

Drill down

While a person is explaining their position, be on the lookout for points that you can expand on by asking questions. Jot these questions down in your notepad to bring up later in the conversation or index for yourself to investigate at a later time. Be sure to leave space around each question for “spinoff questions”.

Example Viewpoint: “This asshole politician is cutting environmental funding for the state”

The focus can be on “environmental funding” because there is more than can be explained. Some questions might be:

  1. How much funding will be cut?
  2. After the cut, how much in the budget will they have?
  3. What projects are being worked on that need the money?
  4. How much do these projects cost and why do the cost that much?
  5. What will the money go to instead?
  6. What is the budget for the state in total? 
  7. What would you consider priority projects?

Spinoff questions may come as people will explain an answer to one of these questions. Use the space between the original questions for the spinoffs. 

Maintain your cool or this doesn’t work

four yellow balls with different emotions written on them, the smiling ball is highlighted

There is a good chance the person explaining this viewpoint may only have a few to all answers to these questions or none at all. If they can’t answer, simply make a mark next to the question and say something like “Ok, I’ll check on that later” or “Ok, I don’t know a few of these things myself, I’ll take a look into this later”, then move right along to the next question. 

Fire as many as you can while being calm, no smirks, no snark, no interrupting, no arguing, just straight down to business. A good follow up is asking them if they can recommend some resources for you to check into these things further. There’s a good chance they wouldn’t be able to think of those either.

Now, this comes with a caveat, you still may get blow back from people while you do this. Don’t worry, its natural. What you are doing right now is new to them and possibly threatening to their ego. Just calmly explain that you cannot take sides and you’re looking to expand on what you know. In a choose-a-side world, you might be a refreshing third party. However, if things get heated to a point, take the kettle off the stove and steer the conversation elsewhere. 

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