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4 Things We Should Remember When Arguing About Politics

#2. No One Ever Changed Their Mind from Being Yelled At

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Of course, there are times when you've done the research, you've had the tough conversations, and you feel confident in your opinion. You're going to encounter many, many people who hold an opposing viewpoint for reasons that reach own-tongue-swallowing levels of stupidity. For example, I have a friend who truly, deeply believes that Die Hard 4 was a better movie than Die Hard 3. I couldn't tell you his reasons why, because as soon as I established that he wasn't kidding, I started hearing loud John Philip Sousa marches in my head. I can recognize a lost cause when I see one, so rather than try to change his mind, I just left the room and then quietly informed the police that a future serial killer was on the loose.

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He's now locked away with people who prefer Jedi to Empire and Rocky V apologists.

Let's take a less extreme example: Say you believe that sex education should be taught in schools, and it comes up in conversation that one of your friends believes abstinence-only is the way to go. This is an issue you feel strongly about, one you've researched thoroughly, and you believe you've come to the only logical conclusion, so your immediate reaction is to speculate loudly about your friend's mother's loose morals and maybe throw in a backhand or two for good measure. Satisfying as that may be, your friend walks away less likely to engage in debate about this particular topic in the future, given that he couldn't even broach the subject without getting yelled at, and his mother is actually a very nice lady who's just trying to do the best she can.

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"You have no idea how hard it is raising a child with terminal wrongness."

If, instead, you say, "That's an interesting position. Why do you feel that way?" and give legitimate consideration and attention to his answer, and then follow up with statistics about teen pregnancy and STIs in school districts that teach sex ed versus those that teach abstinence, you will ... still not change anyone's mind, in all likelihood. Humans don't like changing their minds, because our brains light up in pleasing ways when we confirm something we already believe in. In a University of Georgia study on teaching advanced science concepts to non-science majors, "Students ignored correct textual information when it conflicted with their previously held concepts. On measures of free recall and recognition, the students consistently let their incorrect prior knowledge override incoming correct information." And that's about fucking science, where there are actually right and wrong opinions. BUT, at least you'll have a civil conversation with your friend. Speak about your own experience and why you believe in your position, rather than tearing his opinion to shreds.

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"Well, when you define 'ethnic cleansing' that way, it makes so much more sense."

Maybe your argument will be so groundbreaking and convincing that he'll convert on the spot; probably not. No matter what, the most important thing to remember is that ...

#1. We're All Just Humans, Man

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So you've followed this guide word for word. You've sought out and absorbed every side of an issue, you've formed an opinion only when you felt confident you could back it up, and you've engaged in open, honest discussion with someone who disagrees with you -- and she still thinks you're wrong. That's cool; turns out you just disagree about this one thing. Try talking about your plans for the weekend instead.

The way we talk about politics, especially with people who belong to the opposite political party from us, makes it seem like anyone who believes in single-payer health care or looser gun control is a literal monster, gleefully watching the world fall apart while stroking a Persian cat and using an orphan as a footstool. Nobody is doing that. We are not defined by our political parties. We are all complex, multi-faceted human beings with first loves and insecurities and at least one embarrassing pants-pooping story.

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"-- and then the Dalai Lama looks at me and says, "I guess your colon just achieved 'enlightenment'."

We tend to put so much weight on political affiliations, but really, we disagree with the people around us all the time, about everything. Why are we able to move on when a friend thinks our football team shouldn't have drafted our top pick, or when someone would rather watch The Big Bang Theory than Game of Thrones, but when we find out who that friend voted for in the last election, it can feel like the whole friendship was a lie?

I have an answer to that question: It's because we're all being jerks to each other, and it's time to cut it out. We only get this one short life together. Now let's all go watch Die Hard 3 again.

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But seriously, if you think Part 4 is better, please seek professional help.

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