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Depolarizing within

What about you?

How often do you find yourself thinking about "those people" on the other side of the political spectrum? Maybe you think they’re just ignorant, self-serving or foolishly following bad leaders.

We all tend to do this, no matter where we fall on the political spectrum. But before you can constructively talk with people you disagree with, you must examine your own stereotypes about the millions of people who see things differently about politics.

Challenge your stereotypes

Stereotypes are how we oversimplify and dismiss members of groups we are not a part of. If you’re liberal, the next time you find yourself assuming that because your cousin is conservative they are racist and homophobic, you can counter your own thinking. If you are conservative, you might assume your liberal in-law hates America or just wants to grow the government. Here are some ways to challenge your stereotypes:

We contain multitudes: Consider that the other side is more varied and more complicated in their views than current rhetoric in the media would have you believe.

Step outside your comfort zone: Read authors and listen to podcasts that represent the best thinking of the other side.

Consider life experiences: Understand that life experiences shape political views — both yours and those you disagree with.

Make depolarizing distinctions

People aren’t positions: You can believe a viewpoint is wrong without thinking everyone who holds it is stupid.

Policies aren’t values: Policies are a means to implement a value. People can differ sharply on policies and have similar goals for their communities.

Inconsistency is not hypocrisy: Inconsistencies between values and behaviors can come from blind spots and competing values.

Use depolarizing language

Don’t generalize: Avoid using “they all” and “those Democrats” or “those Republicans” in conversations.

Avoid easy language: Don’t jump quickly to terms like “racist” or “socialist,” which shut down conversations.

Criticize the policy, not motivations: Just because someone supports stricter climate change policies doesn’t mean they want to over-regulate the economy or over-tax society. Similarly, don’t assume that an objection to affirmative action means someone opposes equal opportunity.

Criticize your own side, too: Point out ways your side falls short and can do better.