Whoa!! Is She Liberal (Conservative)!

A sculpture of tangled tree roots.


Liberals and Conservatives Need to Talk to Each Other.

A few weeks ago I had a heated and interesting conversation with a long time friend.  My position tends to be politically liberal, her position tends to be politically conservative.

My friend was critical of government support because she saw so many people taking advantage of government payments when they were able to take care of themselves with their own resources.  She has also seen that some people will not work to improve their lives.

Liberals tend to dismiss these stories as rare or exaggerated.  But they are genuine experiences of some people.

In my experience I have seen people struggle with inadequate housing, transportation and health care.  Money is something that is always a source of serious stress.  These experiences are just as genuine.

When two friends or family members get together, and one is politically liberal and the other is politically conservative, the conversation feels heated, then immediately runs out of steam.  Both avoid the confrontation.  Why?  We don’t like conflict.  Conflict has been painful.  Conflict can lead to violence, anger, sometimes complete break downs of relationships.

Both sides of the political divide believe that they have the truth.  Sometimes the other side becomes vilified, or dismissed.  What doesn’t happen?

The truth of the other side never gets explored.  We can, in fact we need to, recognize that each side has a piece of the truth.  We can explore that truth.  We can accept that truth.  The truth on each side can illustrate a real problem.  When we vilify the other side, we don’t accept the experience or the truth of that experience in the lives of people.

This doesn’t have to happen. We can make this better.  How?

First: We can listen to each other. We can indicate that we are willing to listen.  We can hear the experience of the other.  We can indicate that the experience of the other person is valid.

Listening may not be an easy exercise. We are often revved up to tell our own side, or to criticize the point of view of the other so we are thinking about what we want to say rather than listening to the other person. See Here for ways to improve listening in challenging situations.

Second: We can share our experience.  We can give specific examples.  We can express our feelings and our thoughts about our experience.

Expressing our own experience may also be difficult. It is easy to give one passioned example, but to give a series of these in a calm way is difficult. See Here for the importance of sharing our thoughts and feelings.

The process of listening and sharing needs to be a slow one.  The problems experienced by people from such different points of view are important to them, and they will defend them with some passion.  If listening is genuine, interested, and respectful, the discord can be diminished.

The third step is moving to the question “How.” Given that some problems have been identified, how do you address these problems?

If two people will sit side by side and address the issues that have been raised, then some steps can be attempted that will address these problems. Go Here and Here for tips on effective problem solving.

A man and a woman, the man is talking, the woman is looking at him and listening.

One person talks, the other listens in order to understand.

We need to accept the following: Some things need to be tried.  We need to accept the fact that some solutions will not be successful. Failures are part of progress. Solutions will always need to be tweaked.

Nothing that we do, either liberal solutions or conservative solutions, will work perfectly.  The fact that some large businesses violate tax laws does not mean that business is a bad thing.  the fact that some people take unfair advantage of government support does not mean that government should stop social support.

When problems like these are addressed as problems to be solved rather than as evidence of failure of the opposite side we will have a chance of improving the way our political positions function.



  1. Jean Heers says:

    Hello, Laraine,
    Just read your blog re liberal-conservative talks. I am ever more convinced that the time tested policy of not discussing politics or religion with family and good friends is a kind and considerate path to follow — especially if one knows that friends and family have strongly held beliefs that differ from one’s own. To do otherwise, what would I hope to accomplish?

  2. Thanks for your comment Jean. What can be accomplished is a dialogue. If we can really listen to each other, we can realize that there are many things that we can agree on. Problems can be addressed in a way that respects the concerns of each position. Right now we are paralyzed. I think this is mainly because there is too little respect shown for each position.

  3. Jean Heers says:

    Thanks for your response, Laraine. Trying to remember the last time I heard such a dialog where people were really listening to each other and respecting positions taken. Like teachable moments, rare and not easily discerned . . .

  4. You are so right, Jean. Rare and not easily discerned. A reminder for all of us, to be willing to really listen to each other, rather than to react and push our own point of view. “First to know, then to be known.” (Steven Covey, roughly).

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