Tips for Discussing Elections with Family and Friends

Last updated: October 8, 2020, at 9:29 a.m. PT

Originally published: October 8, 2020, at 9:29 a.m. PT

Hand putting sealed ballot into ballot drop box

Are you interested in talking about voting with family and friends, but worried about how the conversation will go? Use these tips for practicing civil discourse to help structure your conversation and engage in a productive, healthy way.

What is civility and civil discourse?

Civility is claiming and caring for one’s identity, needs, and beliefs without degrading someone else’ in the process. - The Institute of Civility

Civil discourse includes disagreeing without disrespect or being disagreeable, seeking common ground in conversations. Here are techniques that put civility in practice:

Tips for Civil Discourse

  1. Establish and practice shared respect: Start by checking your assumptions. You do not know someone's position on an issue because of any one factor (like their political party, age, race, or religion). Then set the right expectations for your conversation. For example, it's respectful to tell someone, "I cannot continue with this conversation if you call me names."

  2. Actively acknowledge the other perspective: Try using the phrases, "I understand that..." or "You are saying..." during your conversation. Acknowledging the opposing view doesn't mean that you agree with it, but rather that you've been listening.

  3. Highlight areas of agreement, no matter how small or obvious: Researchers have found that even when people passionately disagree, they usually have some shared values or common beliefs that can bring them together. Discourse is not debate -- your goal in this conversation is to come to common ground and understanding, not to win.

  4. Disengage and avoid when necessary: It's okay to exit conversations where there are personal attacks and/or the conversation is creating hostile conditions. Don't feel guilty for taking care of yourself and choosing to discontinue.

More Resources for You

  • Teaching Children the Importance of Voting: Use our reading list to start a conversation about voting with the children in your family, or run a mock election! Learn more >

  • Get Vote Ready! Resources for King County Voters: Find important dates, information about how to register and other important details. Learn more >


This content has been adapted from How to Maintain Civil Discourse – Understanding Political Division and How Leaders Can Navigate Politicized Conversations and Inspire Collaboration