Spaghetti Politics

You’re scanning. As you hopelessly search, your cafeteria spaghetti is getting cold. You see someone across the room.
“Is that Jack? No. Definitely not Jack. Wait, there’s a spot next to Ryan.”

You greet everyone at the table with a quick smile and begin winding up your noodles.

Then, like a mouse snapped in a trap, you realize your fate. You hear the words “Donald Trump.” Politics. The favorite table topic.

Great.

If you’re a lover of harmony like me, you panic. Your mind begins to race. 

“Should I say anything? Should I share my REAL opinion?  Is it worth it?”

All you want is to blend in and make everybody happy. Most of the time that’s easier said than done.

In my experience, whether or not I flop into the fray of political banter is based on the answers to five questions. Ask yourself these questions before you engage (and don’t forget to eat your spaghetti).

1. Is there someone not participating in the political banter that I can engage with?

This is your “get out of jail free” card. Chances are you aren’t the only harmonizer in this cohort, so if someone else isn’t engaging, they probably feel just as uncomfortable as you. Use a less heated topic to start a conversation with your neighbor (classes, hobbies, your pet hermit crab…ANYTHING but politics).

2. Could I steer the discussion to a happier topic?

This one is tricky, especially if your comrades are heavily engaged in the discussion. It is possible, however. Try and listen in for an escape route. If they are talking foreign policy, bring up that mission trip you took to Peru in high school where you fed a llama. Something exciting. Something that will get them off topic.

3. Is this an argument or a discussion?

If you’re stranded on the harmonizer island by yourself and your best attempts to change the topic are of no avail, you have two options. To speak or not to speak. Listen in for a minute and see if there is hostility in the discourse. Is this an argument or a discussion? If the faces around you are bright red, it’s probably an argument. Do not engage, soldier.

4. Is anyone receptive to the opinions of others?

There is no point in arguing with a brick wall. Even if someone is breathing normally and their face is its normal hue, their mind may still be closed off. See if those around you are listening and responding to the opinions of others. Protect your harmonizer soul. Don’t jump in if nothing good could come out of it.

5. Do I have an opinion on this subject?

If you find yourself in a receptive political discussion, you have one last question to answer. Do I have an opinion on this subject? If the answer is yes, go for it! Stretch beyond your comfort zone. It’s OK to disagree. And don’t forget to be receptive yourself.

Before you entangle yourself in the political spouting at your next dinner event, try answering these questions. Hopefully, as you wind up that last bite of spaghetti, you’ll find yourself feeling more confident.

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Austin Grothe

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