Honest discussion at risk

Alexandra Moore

Fear of political correctness leads to digression of meaningful conversations


Controversy surrounds just about every topic of conversation these days.

Ironically though, we are discouraged from conversing about these controversial topics.
With sensitive social issues regarding race, religion, gender, sexuality, etc. at the forefront of political discussion, it has become extremely difficult to maneuver day-to-day interactions.

This is especially true due to the increased societal “necessity” for political correctness. A necessity which is taken to the extreme.

Uncertain of the tight parameters that political correctness requires, we have become fearful to talk about many topics altogether, leaving us only with the banalities of weather and sports for conversational fodder, although sometimes not even that, as even the Seahawks have become a contentious subject.

Therefore, political correctness has successfully been redefined as political avoidance.

How are we to engage in discussions with our peers when the boundaries of appropriate conversation require the exclusion of anything remotely, or even potentially, controversial?

My proposal is that we forget political correctness and start debating.

Bear with me.

In the present generation, we highly value feelings and consider emotions valid claims in an argument.

On the other hand, we aren’t allowed to talk about these feelings if they might hurt those of another.

For example, we fail to discuss the things that make us upset or confused, for fear of insulting those who disagree; yet this list of things continues to grow in the name of being politically correct.

We are perpetually tip-toeing around our differences, taking every measure to ensure no one gets offended, and merely sweeping important matters under a heavy rug of ignorance.

Being politically correct, as I am sure we have all experienced, is as exhausting as it is unproductive.

Understand, I am not suggesting we neglect political correctness entirely. However, the only way we are going to comprehend and remedy the issues facing our society is by talking about them.

It is time for us to become comfortable with being uncomfortable.

During the Common Day of Learning last month, I attended the seminar entitled “How to Talk About Controversial Subjects and Not Make Enemies Out of Your Friends,” in which the presenters explored the strategies of healthy debate.

They recommended five key guidelines:

First, use “I” statements instead of “you” statements in order to encourage rather than shut down conversation; avoid accusations.

Second, refrain from interruption. Although simple, this rule is a tough one to follow in practice. It is vital, however, in establishing a civil debate environment.

Third, maintain confidentiality and grace. That is, an attack on personal beliefs is not an attack on a person themselves. Be forgiving and do not gossip about what a participant says during a debate.

Fourth, assume that all participants are reasonable people with reasonable views.

Remember, opposite opinions can, indeed, be valid. Also, it is important to note that no one person represents an entire group. Thus, do not jump to conclusions before or after engaging with someone in a debate.

Fifth and finally, be present. Debate is valuable and rare. It is important to take advantage of opportunities to express and hear opinions.

The objective of debate is not to win, but to better understand the issue at hand by learning from the ideas of others.

With these factors in mind, it’s time for our generation to set political correctness aside, along with our tendency to be easily-offended, for the sake of making progress on the issues we all agree need to be addressed.

Instead of argument, let us engage in healthy debate: collaborating with rather than trying to convince our peers.