At our last meeting, I asked what topics our members would like to discuss in future meetings. Several women suggested that they would like to discuss politics. In this Presidential election year, politics is at the forefront of many of our minds. Some of our members feel quite passionate about politics, the current state of our country, and our country’s future. It is certainly an important topic.
In discussing this as a possible topic, I realized that as a group we have talked about a wide array of subjects, but have omitted or avoided several of the “hot button” topics, such as politics, sex, and money. I realize that I made this choice somewhat unconsciously, but also with some awareness that I wanted to avoid discussing topics that could be divisive so as to preserve the sense of warmth and closeness members of our group have developed with one another over the past several years.
The fact that several women expressed the desire to make this a subject of our discussion made me re-think the issues and I presented the group with this question: How can we talk about something as deeply felt and potentially divisive as sharing our differing political views and values without risking the cohesiveness and sense of unity in the group? Since then I have given a lot of thought to this question myself and I think we can do it and do it well as long as we proceed with thought and care. So I have come up with several questions for our discussion. Some pertain to sharing our political views and some pertain to how we can talk about our differences in a respectful way with people we care about who may or may not share our views.
- Why do you think talking about our political views and values is so difficult?
- On a personal level, are you very interested in the way our country operates and is your interest casual, moderate or passionate? Was this topic important to your family of origin?
- How has your interest in politics and your political views evolved over time? Are you similar to or different in your perspectives than the people you grew up around?
- If you wish, share one or two of your political views with the group. Be direct and honest but keep in mind that others in the group may hold views quite different from yours.
- How do you feel about discussing emotionally charged topics in this group? At the end of the meeting let’s talk a little bit about how it went and how we would feel about addressing other controversial topics in the future.
If we listen respectfully to one another and share our views in an atmosphere of group unity and safety, we can learn from one another and perhaps create a model for constructive dialogue about politics that would be valuable for such conversations in society at large.