A great skit on this weekend’s Saturday Night Live suggested an Adele song as a cure for obnoxious and endless Thanksgiving dinner arguments about politics.
Adele is great, but here’s a more substantial (though simple) thought experiment that can produce amazing results. It works great if you’re going to be talking politics with friends or relatives this holiday season, because it’s designed to bring a sense of mutual understanding where none previously could be found. It’s something you do inside your own imagination before trying to talk with others you disagree with. It involves three steps, and the third is the most difficult. Here goes:
Step One: select a current political figure you really despise and completely disagree with. Of course this should be a politician who is influential in your own region. Some popular choices for my fellow Americans might be Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama. (I’ll be playing along with you, and I’ll pick Marco Rubio for myself. I really hate that guy!)
Step Two: Leave the bubble of your own personal political mindset and opinions, and try to imagine yourself in the body and mind of one of this politician’s eager supporters. Most importantly, do this without putting on an imaginary cloak of “evil” or "stupid". Assume that you are an intelligent and rational person who considers yourself a decent and moral citizen. Try to imagine, even if only for a short moment, what the world looks like from inside the mind of a person who considers themselves a decent and rational person, but who is an enthusiastic supporter of the politician who you actually hate.