Talking about politics without offending

John O’Leary interviews Peter Montoya about his new book and asks about how to talk to people that have different political opinions. Then they continue to talk about political bigotry and the real beneficiaries of a divided America.

So what I was asking a couple of colleagues that I work with to check out the book ahead of time and also to send me a few questions that I could ask on their behalf. Cool. And my friend Heather beat everybody else to the punch, and she sent in this question.

Please ask Peter, how do you ask questions and try to understand where the other side is coming from without offending in a climate where honest questions can get you canceled?

Yeah, well, it’s a great question. So, so glad she asked it. So increasingly, I’ve stopped asking political questions altogether because they really can be used more to signal, you know, what side you’re on versus who you are and what you’re about.

And so there’s a lot of really good books on questions. John Maxwell’s got a fantastic book on questions. I’ve got a spreadsheet now where I just collect questions. And so now what? I meet with somebody around and saying, hey, what do you think about the election?

I can say, what did you learn about your partner during the pandemic? And I could get a sense of really who they are rather than what tribe they belong to. Now, if I do find a good thought partner who’s someone who has a different opinion than mine, I usually will set the table.

Here’s how I set the table. Hey, I would love to ask you some questions about what you believe. But before we get into it, first of all, I want you to know the following. I have no interest in changing your mind.

And please don’t try to change my mind. And number two, I have no interest in winning. People discuss, people debate to find out who is right. People have discussions to figure out what is right.

And so I want to have discussions to figure out what is the best policy or the best idea or another insight not to make anybody wrong. And with those two or three principles…

The difference between a discussion and a debate.

Yeah. So the debates we have, we see debates on TV. And so that’s kind of how what we model and we think we’re supposed to do it that way. And it’s not how we used to do it. We used to be able to have discussions around religion and politics in society and social issues and news, because we’re just trying to figure out what’s going on, not trying to beat somebody with our our enhanced social status because they are on the wrong side and we’re on the right side.

So I’ve been asking you a whole bunch of questions. I’m going to ask our listeners a question and then I’ll have you weigh in a little bit. But the question to our listeners is this. I hope, by the way, you’re sitting down when you hear it.

Are you a bigot? Are you a bigot? And let me define it for you, because it shows up in Peter Montoya’s book, A bigot is a noun. It is a person who is intolerant of or biased against dissimilar creeds, beliefs or opinions, someone who is irrationally and flexibly connected to a conviction, a judgment or a faction in particular, antagonism or prejudice against others based on their belonging to a particular group. So, Peter Montoya, if that is the definition of a bigot, it probably suggests that just about all of us, unfortunately, are.

Yeah, I think that I was her the definition of bigotry. I assumed it meant only being racist. I think I’m one of those people who goes and looks up word in the dictionary. And so I pull that word up.

I look at the definition and I realized that I was a bigot, that I had shamed and shunned people based on their religious, political or social preferences. And it was a real hard look in the mirror. And I came to realize the bigotry is bigotry.

We look at racism as being absolutely and completely taboo. If most people were to use a racial slur, we probably wouldn’t talk to them ever again. However, it’s become OK for us to use political slurs. We can call somebody a blank tade or an extremist or a racist or a kook or an idiot or a fool.

And those words are for some reason are OK in our society. And I’m here to say they’re no better than using a racial slur. Every time you slur another American, even if it’s in your own mind, just in your own mind.

You really are helping our adversaries. The two or three biggest winners in the last five years are Iran, North Korea, Russia and China. So if you are consuming media that spends most of his time demonizing other Americans, and that’s how you think, too, I swear to you, you are not helping America in any way.

We think that in which, you know, to fight for our country is to argue with somebody else and to make them wrong. The really the only way to change somebody else’s mind is through a relationship. It’s by getting close to them, empathizing with them, understanding their point of view and having enough time with them that you get to share yours. Arguing is by far and away the worst way to try to change somebody’s mind.

So are you trying to say that posting that someone’s wrong on Facebook or Twitter doesn’t usually get the job done? That’s not all it really serves to do. The only reason that you do that is to get a bunch of people say how right you are and making you feel good about being an extremist.

And that’s the good news about being an extremist is you get to imagine that all the bad things in the world are on the other side and that you are on the good side by making them look bad.

That’s what extremist behavior looks like is when you post things, solely so you can get people saying how great and wonderful you are and give you likes. If you are more committed to national unity than partisanship. Please check out my book, The Second Civil War: A Citizen’s Guide to Healing Our Fractured Nation.

My book will challenge you to improve your relationships with friends and family. Click the link in the description below.