Keeping the Peace: How to Discuss Tough Topics

Tough Conversations Advice

With the Thanksgiving holiday this week and the potential for gathering around tables with those who might not share the same political, religious, or cultural points of view, I thought it would be a good time to revisit the topic of talking with those who share different views. Conquering controversial topics — particularly with family — is not for the faint of heart, but I truly believe there's a way to stay positive, voice your opinion, and still keep the peace. 

Of course, if you’re dealing with someone who is violent, judgmental, or narrow-minded, you’re going to have a hard time discussing tough topics with them. However, if you can find people who are open-minded and willing to listen and talk about contentious issues, it’s possible to share your beliefs in positive ways. 

So, how do you go about sharing your opinions without putting other people off? Here are some of the best ideas I’ve found (after doing lots of research and trying them out for myself!) for talking about your beliefs with those who don’t share them.

 

KNOW WHAT YOU BELIEVE.

It might sound obvious, but a lot people aren’t truly certain about what they believe. Many people flip-flop on certain issues, have beliefs based on one-off op-ed pieces (rather than facts), or base beliefs on those held by those surrounding them. Before getting into any serious discussion (especially with people with opposing views), do your research  both the fact checking and the soul-searching kind. Carefully consider the issue, taking stock of what you know and what you might not know.

Just as importantly, consider how you feel really about it. It's incredibly tempting to jump onto the bandwagons, to join groups, and to identify with the labels, but remember: you are complex human being with unique experiences, insights, and ideas. We all want to belong, but think carefully about what beliefs you align yourself with. Before declaring, “I’m a _________________,” or “I believe in _________________,” ask yourself if that’s 100% true. It may very well be true, but it’s important to check in with yourself and make sure that you not your peers, not your family, not a portion of society you aspire to be like  do, in fact, hold these beliefs.

Also, it’s important to keep checking in with yourself periodically to see if you still hold the beliefs. We are ever evolving, changing creatures and what you believe at one point in your life may not be what you believe later. Because sometimes we get lazy, we might cling to beliefs we’ve had for a long time because we think we still believe them, not because we actually do.

 

SCRUTINIZE YOUR SOURCES.

It is so very, very important to check your sources, and then check them again. So many people hold — and speak about  beliefs not based on facts. With the incredible rise of the Internet, you’re able to read this article and countless other things that literally anyone can post online. Sometimes this is amazing — different viewpoints!  unique perspectives! — and sometimes this is just insane — fake news sites created just to get clicks, opinion pieces skewed with untrue claims, etc.

Not only is important to make sure the facts you have are, indeed, facts, but it’s important to be aware of how greatly biased the Internet is. The Internet helps us take sides. We’re encouraged — by the sheer nature of how the Internet is set up — to cultivate either/or mindsets.

Every day we are given a choice to pick one thing or the other: like or dislike this post, agree or disagree with that article. Social media, while it does allow for comments and more lengthy explorations into "gray" territories, often encourages us to choose one thing over the other, usually in a yes-or-no, black-or-white dichotomy.

And here’s the scariest part: what we choose is constantly reinforced with algorithms designed to personalize our content. We are given more content that aligns with what we like, less that showcases what we don’t like. Most of us don’t actively realize this, so it starts to seem like everyone and everything supports our views.

Unlike in the old days, when everyone saw the same images on TV and then disagreed or agreed with those images, we’re now shown images that support the ideas we’ve told the Internet we like. What we see online is meant to appeal to us — which can definitely be nice sometimes — but this is creating little individual bubbles where we’re all seeing the things we want to see, having our beliefs and preferences reinforced (often without even seeing information from the other side).

Do your best to go out of your way to find new sources, to find unbiased articles, to even reach out to those who hold opposing views and ask them for their thoughts.

 

CHANNEL YOUR COURAGE.

Speaking up about the things you believe in with someone who doesn’t share your perspective can be scary, which is why you're going to need to channel your courage. Anyone who has ever had to have a difficult conversation — a break-up, a resignation, etc. — knows just how much courage is required for talking about tough topics. 

When facing challenging conversations, remind yourself that fear (and anger...) is just a chemical reaction going on inside of you. For some reason, I've always found it helpful to bring to mind the biological responses of emotion to remind me that feelings of fear are both natural and combatable

Just because you are afraid to do something doesn't mean you shouldn't do it. In fact, it's often a sign that something is important — particularly when talking about conversations, not phobia-style fears. When beginning an important conversation, take a deep breath, remind yourself of the knowledge you possess (you've done your research!), and understand that, even though a conversation might be difficult, you are doing the right thing by making an effort to communicate openly and honestly with those you know. 

 

BE CLEAR AND HONEST.

When it comes to talking about difficult topics or beliefs, we don't always begin the conversation by being clear and honest. Too often, we are driven by strong emotions and triggered by the words of someone else rather that striving to be levelheaded and thoughtful in what we say. I know this is much easier said than done, but imagine what it would be like if you opened up a conversation like this:

“Hey, I know we have totally different views on this issue, but I’d really like to talk about it. I’m going to do my best to share my point of view calmly, and to listen and keep an open mind to what you have to say. I know neither of us will probably change our minds on this issue, but I think it’s important for us to should talk about it.”

When starting a conversation with someone of a different political background or belief, it can be helpful to make it clear that you’re not necessarily trying to change their mind. One of the reasons we have such heated debates about politics is because it often feels like the opposing side is saying, “You’re wrong. Here’s why.”

Or, if you are trying to change someone’s mind, what if you were honest about it? You could say something like, “You know I feel really passionately about this topic. It’s very important to me, and I’d really love it if I could change your mind about it so that you could see it the way I do. I know that might not be possible, but would you be willing to listen to what I have to say? After I share my thoughts, I’ll be more than happy to listen to your point of view, too.”

The key takeaway from this point is this: you’re never going to transform someone else’s mindset through trickery, bullying, or manipulation. (Okay, you might be able to, but is that the kind “win” you want?) You’ll get a lot farther — and probably have a more positive conversation — if you’re honest and clear about what you want to talk about and what your end goal for the conversation is.

 

SPEAK WITH COMPASSION.

Compassion is a word we hear often, but its actual definition isn’t always clear. Compassion is about recognizing another's pain and desiring to alleviate it in some way (regardless of whether or not you agree with that person's beliefs).

When you’re passionate about a topic, it can be hard to channel compassion in the way you speak and react, but it’s important to do so  not only for the other person’s benefit, but for your own mental state as well.

In the midst of talking about the tough stuff, we need compassion  especially for those who display aggressive, angry, and hateful behavior. Without compassion, we’ll never be able to find our way in this shadowy, complex jungle of difficult discourse. Compassion is our flashlight in the dark. It, alone, is not going to get us from point A to point B, but it sure as hell is going to make the path easier to see.

As I wrote in my article on compassion, defending what you believe and having compassion for those who think differently are not mutually exclusive. You can be passionate and compassionate. Remember this when you’re speaking with someone who has completely different views and you’re struggling with compassion. (Also, try your best to go into the conversation with a compassionate mindset!)

 

LISTEN – REALLY LISTEN.

Listening isn’t just about opening your ears to the sounds coming from someone else’s mouth. It’s also about paying attention to body language, tone, facial expression. It’s also about looking past the words and considering what someone might actually mean, instead of just focusing on what they’re saying. Often, below the surface, it's clear that "I'm aligned with [insert political party here]" really means "[a specific value] is really important to me and [political party of choice] really seems to represent that."

Will it be challenging to listen to other people talk passionately about their beliefs that differ completely from your own? You bet. But, if you want people to be tolerant and accepting of your views, you have to show others the same courteousness. If you want people to listen to you, you must listen to them. And when I say really listen, I mean it. It’s tempting to assume you know what someone is going to say or to take a stand on it before words have even been uttered, but don't allow yourself to make assumptions. Listen with your ears, watch with your eyes, and pay attention with your mind. 

Also, even if others' beliefs might sound crazy to you, don’t punish them for their honesty. Never forget that listening isn’t just about opening your ears — it’s about opening your mind as well. The point of talking about difficult issues with someone of differing beliefs is to open the lines of communication. 

 

RESPECT ALL BOUNDARIES.

Not everyone is going to want to have difficult discussions with you, and that’s okay. It may be frustrating not to be able to talk to people about what you want to talk about, but it’s important to respect others’ boundaries. If someone makes it clear that they don't want to talk to you about an issue, respect that. (Also, consider finding some people who do want to talk to you.)

Here are some other times you might want to respect boundaries — your own and those of the people around you — and not bring up, or keep talking about, tough topics:

 

  • When the other person is emotionally unready or unwilling to hear what you have to say. This isn’t to say you can’t talk about it at some point, but assess the emotional state of others and determine if it might be better to choose a different time to talk. Also, on a less dramatic scale, consider the general emotional state of yourself and the other person. If you (or they) had a terrible, long day at work, maybe it’s not the best time to get into a heated debate.

 

  • When violent acts might be committed against you. This is not a reason for a whole group to be quiet (if it were, we’d still have horrific institutions like slavery), but in one-on-one situations where you would be in great physical or emotional danger if you were to speak your mind about a certain topic, it’s best to remain quiet until you can find a way to communicate without harm coming to you or someone else. Please be safe when it comes to speaking up.

 

  • When you’ve honestly, openly stated your beliefs with kindness and compassion, and you’re receiving only hatred, judgment, and accusations in return. Some people are just not open to listening and talking. This is unfortunate, and it can be painful if it's someone you love, but it’s just the way it goes. Once you’ve said what you wanted to say, repeating it over and over (however nicely!) will no longer be productive.

 

  • When a large group of people is ganging up on you. Again, this isn’t to say you shouldn’t speak your mind, but sometimes it’s better to speak up when you either (a) have at least one person on your side or (b) can have a one-on-one with individuals of the group, instead of speaking to the group as a whole.

 

Regardless of what you’re talking about — or who you’re speaking to  it’s important not only to respect others’ boundaries, but to take care of your own boundaries as well. If you’re unsure about whether or not to keep talking, ask, “Would you like to keep talking about this topic?” If you’ve gotten to a point where your own boundaries are being threatened, say, “I’m glad we were able to start this conversation, but I feel it is no longer productive, and I think we should stop talking about it for now.” 

 

REINFORCE IT WITH ACTION.

Actions speak louder than words, they say, and it really is true. You can talk yourself blue in the face about what you believe in, but if you don’t support those words with actions, it’s going to be much less likely that people will take you, and your beliefs, seriously. Here a few ideas for how you can take positive action on your beliefs:

 

  • Donate to a cause that supports what you believe in
  • Volunteer for an organization you support
  • Share (legitimate, fact-based) information on social media
  • Offer to organize an event or fundraiser for a cause
  • Watch a film about the topic with someone who opposes it
  • Research the issue and consider new ways to offer help
  • Give (well-researched) books on issues you support to skeptics
  • Vote for the people who support what you believe
  • Call Senators / people in Congress and ask for change
  • Ask experts on the issues for ideas for how to help
  • Join local (or online) groups who share your beliefs
  • Read up on what others are saying (and gather facts!)
  • Shop at stores that uphold your beliefs (don't know? ask!)

 

It may seem like this action-taking isn’t a necessary step to talking about what you believe in, but it’s actually essential. Anyone can say they believe in anything, but to really have those beliefs heard (and have them matter), action is necessary. You might also want to see if you can have someone with opposing views take part in the action in some way. Sometimes people don’t realize what they believe until they see a situation for themselves.

 

 


2018 Positively Present Holiday Shopping

 

Positively Present Gift Guide
 

Love it or hate it, the holiday season is upon us, which means, for many, it's time to stress about that gift-giving list of friends, family, teachers, helpers, etc. I stressed so hard this year that I'm nearly done with my list! I absolutely hate leaving things to the last moment, especially when it comes to gift-giving. For one, I want to get those I love something they'll love and, for another, I don't have the money to waste on last-minute, frantic shopping expeditions! If you're like me and want to get your shopping done now so that you can actually enjoy the holidays, let me present you with a few Positively Present-themed gift options that are sure to delight your loved ones! 

 

Take Care PrintART PRINTS! 

Whether you're looking for a simple print, a beautiful canvas, or a framed work-of-art, they're all in my shop, ready to be shipped for perfect gift-giving. Also, I'm planning to switch up some of the prints in the shop in the new year so if you don't want to miss out on anything that's currently there, you'll want to shop now.  

SHOP ART PRINTS HERE! 

 

EDM 2019 DiaryEVERY DAY MATTERS DIARIES

The 2019 Every Day Matters diaries are flying off the shelves this year so if you're looking for a great gift for someone who loves to stay inspired and organized all year long, this is perfect! (It's also a perfect gift to treat yourself with for all of your hard holiday shopping work!) The diary is available in both desk and pocket sizes so it appeals to a variety of users. I personally use my desk-sized one as a year-long gratitude journal, and I love it! 

SHOP DIARIES HERE! 

 

Positively Present Guide to LifeTHE POSITIVELY PRESENT GUIDE TO LIFE

Is there someone on your list who could use a bit more inspiration, positivity, and self-love in their life? Look no further than The Positively Present Guide to Life! This book is packed with insights, activities, and uplifting content to motivate and educate, and is sure to be useful to anyone who wants to learn more about living a positive, present life. Available in paperback or hardcover, it will surely help whoever receives it as a gift end the year (and begin 2019!) on a more positive note. 

SHOP THE BOOK HERE! 

 

Effortless Inspiration BooksEFFORTLESS INSPIRATION SERIES

If you're looking for the perfect stocking stuffer or add-on gift for someone you love, you'll find it in one of the four Effortless Inspiration books. Focusing on a single topic -- GratitudeLiving in the MomentForgiveness, or Compassion -- each book is filled with beautiful quotations, thought-provoking ideas, and even suggested activities for the reader to have a better understanding of what each of these topics really means. Not only are these little books filled with wisdom, they're also beautiful too! 

SHOP THE SERIES HERE! 

 

Loving YourselfDELIGHTFUL DIGITAL GIFTS

For those who want some interactive, digital gift-giving ideas, check out the Loving Yourself workbook, the Finding Yourself workbook, or the Self-Love Card Deck! These are perfect for those who love to work on tablets and prefer digital content to tangible gifts. They're also excellent last-minute gifts since you can simply send a link or print them out and gift them right away!

SHOP DIGITAL GIFTS HERE! 

 

PATREON SUBSCRIPTION

If you know someone who loves Positively Present (or just loves supporting creators in general), a subscription to my Patreon page might be a wonderful gift! There are a variety of different tiers, each with their own unique benefits, and signing someone else up for a subscription is a great way not only to give them exclusive access to a creator they love, but has the added bonus of supporting my work as well! Learn more about Patreon here 

 Patreon

 

BONUS! USE THE AMAZON LINK! 

This last one isn't exactly a gift, but if you do any shopping on Amazon this holiday season (or anytime!) and want to support Positively Present in the process (at no additional cost to you!), you can use the Amazon Affiliate link. Just bookmark it and use it anytime you shop on Amazon, and you'll be supporting the work I do without having to spend any money. Win, win! :)

 

I hope this little round-up of holiday gifts sparked some ideas -- or at least inspired you to start shopping now so you can enjoy the holiday season with those you love instead of searching or scrolling frantically for the perfect gift at the last minute. Gift-giving should be a joyful experience, but it tends to lose its appeal when it feels forced or frantic, so start now and you'll feel sooo good when everything is all done! Happy shopping!

 


Get Grateful! : The 2018 Gratitude Challenge Is Here


2018_Gratitude_Challenge

 

It's hard to believe, but 2018 is the EIGHTH year of this Gratitude Challenge! 

I'm sharing the prompts a bit early this year so everyone who wants to participate can have a chance to prepare (and get a head start on thinking about gratitude!). I personally like tracking gratitude daily in my Every Day Matters diary, but even though I do it daily, focusing on a single word each day throughout November has served as a wonderful way to move toward the end of the year on a thankful note. 

Like last year, I'll be sharing my illustrations on Instagram daily (follow me on Instagram if you're not already!), but most people choose to to share photographs. Do whatever works best for you. It's all about connecting with what you're grateful for, so the method is less important than the content. If you're new to the Challenge, read on for details! 

 

THE CHALLENGE DETAILS

  • “Challenge” is just a word.

    The goal of the Challenge is to take and/or share something (a photo, illustration, quote, etc.) every day using the prompts to help you feel more appreciative. Feel free to get creative, make up your own prompts, etc. And don’t feel pressured to attain perfection, either. Thankfulness is what it’s all about; no need to be a professional photographer or artist!

  • Join in at any time.

    The point of the Challenge is to focus on staying thankful for thirty days. You can start the challenge on November 1 and do it for the whole month (as I am doing), or you can start the challenge any day that works for you and follow along at your own pace. I see people discovering and partaking in the Challenge all year 'round so don't feel limited to November!

  • Use the hashtag #Gratitude30.

    Sharing your pics on Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc.? If you tag them with #Gratitude30, others can see them and you’ll be able to see all of the other cool things that other people are sharing. It's one of my favorite things ever to look through all of the posts and see the various ways people interpret the prompts. 

  • Save or print out a reminder.

    Keep up with the prompts by downloading the photo above (save it to your phone, perhaps!) or, if you’re more of a IRL type, print out a version to post wherever you'd find a reminder helpful so you can stay on top of the prompts. Of course, you don't have to do them all in a row, but there is something special about spending 30 days focusing on what you're thankful for. 

 

THE 2018 PROMPTS...

 

DAY 1: HOME

It's said that home is where the heart is, but what does the word "home" mean to you? Is it where you rest your head each night? Is it where you grew up? Or is home more of a state of mind? Whatever home means to you, reflect on it and share a photo of it today.

 

DAY 2: INSPIRATION

We all find unique inspiration in the world around us. On Day 2, consider what inspires you to get out of the bed in the morning. What inspires you to keep working, loving, living? Use today as an opportunity to share your favorite source of inspiration. 

 

DAY 3: LOVE

Of course, we couldn't do this without mentioning love. There are so many kinds of love (romantic, friendship, etc.) and each one is deserving of your gratitude. How do you share love in your life? How do you accept it? How does it make you feel when you think of the word "love"?

 

DAY 4: COLOR

If you can't tell from my colorful site, there are few things I love more than color. It's something I'm incredibly grateful for on a daily basis. How do you feel about color? Which ones are your favorites? What colors inspire feelings of happiness? Share those today!

 

DAY 5: HAPPINESS

For each and every one of us, the word "happiness" might mean something different. Try not to place any judgment on what makes you happy. Just contemplate it today and then find a way share with the world. Don't forget to use #Gratitude30! 

 

DAY 6: WORDS

Someone once asked me what is the one thing I couldn't live without and I immediately answered: words. Words are my passion, but even if you're not passionate about words, I bet they've had a profound influence on your life. Share your favorites -- a single word, a quote, etc. -- today. 

 

DAY 7: MEMORIES

While staying present is very important, reflecting on positive memories can be uplifting. Consider your favorite moment or item from the past. What was wonderful about it? How do you feel when you think of that time / thing / person? 

 

DAY 8: NATURE

Look around for whatever nature you can find. No matter where you live, there's likely to be something natural that can inspire you. What is inspiring or beautiful about what you see? What elements of nature do you most connect with? When are you most in touch with nature? 

 

DAY 9: LAUGHTER

Laughing is one of the best activities in life, and I'm grateful for every moment I spend laughing. Today, reflect on what makes you laugh. Is it a movie? A book? A joke? A memory? A friend? Whatever evokes that giddy sense of joy within you, be thankful for it. 

 

DAY 10: MUSIC

Music is an aspect of life I'm immensely grateful for. (Check out my playlists on Spotify!) There are songs for every occasion and mood and hearing the right one can change everything. What kind of music do you enjoy? What song is your favorite right now?

 

DAY 11: GIFT

This prompt can go one of two ways: (1) you could share a gift that someone else that has given you that you're thankful to have received, or (2) you can share your gratitude for a gift/talent that you possess. Whatever you choose, focus on being thankful for life's gifts. 

 

DAY 12: WISDOM

Reflect on the wisdom you've received (or gained!) in your life. Who is the wisest person you know? What have you learned from him/her? Or, reflect specifically on a piece of advice or an experience that's made you wiser. 

 

DAY 13: ART

What you consider "art" is unique to you. Even if you don't consider yourself artistic, you know what appeals to you when you see it. Ask yourself: What art do I see on a daily basis? What art have I seen that's positively impacted my life? 

 

DAY 14: ROUTINE

Many of us (especially me!) are creatures of habit. What positive routines do you have in your life? What is it about those routines that keeps you doing them? Do they make your life easier? What elements of them are you thankful for? 

 

DAY 15: CLOTHING

Clothing is a something we often take for granted, but we are fortunate to have it. What attire are you the most thankful for? What item makes you happy every time you wear it? What item has an important meaning for you? 

 

DAY 16: NOVELTY

New things and experiences are exciting! What's been added to your life over the past year? What's changed since last November? Do you have new friends, new experiences, new mindsets? If you're struggling with this prompt, go out and do something new today! 

 

DAY 17: WEATHER

Without the bad weather, we'd never appreciate the good. Weather itself is a reminder to be grateful, which makes it a great thing to focus on today. How do you feel when the sun shines? When the storm clouds gather? What is the weather today and how does it make you feel? 

 

DAY 18: FOOD

For all of us, food is life-giving, which means it's a pretty great thing to be grateful for. What is your favorite food? Why? What tastes (sweet, salty, etc.) are you most drawn to? What flavors entice and excite you? Celebrate (and maybe eat!) your favorites today. 

 

DAY 19: BEAUTY 

Beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder. What beauty are you grateful to see or experience? What things make your home, office, neighborhood, etc. more beautiful? Who around you embodies the essence of beauty? What do you find beautiful about yourself? 

  

DAY 20: FRIENDSHIP

Today, be grateful for and celebrate the friendships in your life. Who has been by your side no matter what? Who can you call, day or night, for a chat? Who puts a smile on your face when you think of his/her name? 

 

DAY 21: TECHNOLOGY

I've always loved technology, and I'm so thankful to have it in my life. In what ways does technology change your life for the better? What are you most thankful for when it comes to the technological advances in our world today? 

 

DAY 22: FAMILY

Family — no matter what shape or size it comes in  — is something we're all lucky to have in our lives. Take note of your family today (and "family" can include friends, too!). What do you love about them? What do you often take for granted?

 

DAY 23: SCENT

What we smell can be transformative, memory-making, and important. Consider what your favorite smells are and why. How do they make you feel? Why do you like feeling that way? Today, be thankful for the aromas in your life. 

 

DAY 24: KNOWLEDGE

Consider how much you've learned since the day you were born. Pretty amazing, isn't it? I bet in the last year alone, you've learned tons of things you didn't know before. What are you thankful to know? What knowledge resources are you thankful to have? 

 

DAY 25: COMFORT

Comfort is a gift — whether it's in the form of physical comfort (a hug, a blanket) or an emotional outlet (a good listener, wise advice). What things, people, or situations make you feel most comforted? Be thankful for those things in your life today.  

 

DAY 26: TIME

We all have limited amounts of time, which is one reason we should be so grateful for whatever we've been given. How do you like to spend your time? What would you do if you had more time? What does the word "time" mean to you? 

 

DAY 27: LUXURY

Most of what we have in our lives (other than food and shelter) is a wonderful luxury. What luxuries do you have in your life that you're thankful for? A car to drive you where you need to go? A bookshelf stuffed with books? Recognize (and appreciate!) your luxuries. 

 

DAY 28: WORK

Being thankful for work might be a challenge, but consider how work makes your life better. It provides income, and it can challenge, inspire, and excite you. Why are you fortunate to have a job? How does this job improve your life, or at least help you in some way?  

 

DAY 29: CREATIVITY

Even if you don't think you're "creative," every day you create something. You create connections, experiences, conversations. You might create art and music and magic. Consider what you have created recently. How did it feel? What would you like to create more of?  

 

DAY 30: SELF-LOVE

The one thing you will always have in your life, no matter what, is yourself. On the final day of the challenge, consider all the ways you are amazing and appreciate the good (and not so good!) parts of yourself. What do you love most about you? 

 

 

Even though this is the eighth year of the challenge, I'm still so excited to see what everyone posts! Being thankful can sound like cliched advice, but it really does make a positive difference. If you've never done the Challenge before, I highly recommend you give it a try. Even if you can't post every day or don't want to do it for 30 days, urging yourself to focus on gratitude as much as possible will help you stress less, allow you to feel more positive, and provide a fresh perspective. I'll be checking the #Gratitude30 hashtag and I'll begin posting my work on November 1. Can't wait to share and see what's being shared!