Today’s Daily Prompt (and an excuse for me to bang out a post after way too long) asks:
“It’s never a good idea to discuss religion or politics with people you don’t really know.” Agree or disagree?
I disagree with the premise. A person’s religious perspective and political viewpoints can reveal much about a person. Through discussing these things, I can begin to learn more a person, what motivates him or her, and maybe find some common ground along the way.
A quick anecdote on how discussing politics and/or religion can work well. Last June, I attended a dinner with some insurance industry clients. I’d spoken with a few of these folks over the phone but I hadn’t met any During dinner, I tipped my hand and described myself as someone who identifies as a capital-D Democrat. I established an immediate connection with one of the clients by taking a risk and revealing a little bit about myself. We apparently shared somewhat similar views and I wouldn’t have learned that if I wouldn’t have opened up a bit. I also established something of a connection with a second client who is a self-described conservative. Why? I think he appreciated that I owned my convictions. Throughout dinner, we disagreed on several matters, and we did so without becoming disagreeable. Ultimately, our dinner conversations strengthened our professional relationship.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve found the person’s actual views matter less and less. Assuming the other person doesn’t hold some view that I abhor, it’s more important to me whether a person articulates their beliefs and respects my perspective than whether the person agrees with me. Who wants to surround themselves with sycophants? That’s boring. If I want an echo chamber, I’ll watch cable news.
Obviously, there’s no hard and fast rule. Discussing these topics with people who are either dogmatic or disinterested can be challenging. It’s even worse when the person simply doesn’t respect different views. I probably don’t want to spend much time with those people anyway. I prefer learning whether a person is fouled up in the beginning of a relationship than the middle.
It’s a basic trust issue. No one wants to bare a part of themselves only to have someone else, stranger or not, castigate them for how they think. That’s why I try to remain civil with people whom I strongly disagree.
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Polite Company.”