Controversial topics cause stress and anxiety

Is your Facebook feed full of intense arguments? Have you found yourself avoiding certain social situations because you know the conversation will turn controversial? The dialogue around controversial topics can be a real source of stress and anxiety! Controversial issues, such as abortion, gay marriage, the divide between the rich and the poor, and sexual assault have a tendency to become destructive. People have strong positions, which often results in little information being exchanged in discussions. It is possible to have strong beliefs and have a constructive discussion of a controversial issue, but a few things need to be done.

First, seek out views different than your own. People who believe in all sides of the issue need to be included in the discussion. You do not learn from or grow from discussing issues with people who agree with you and have the same perspective as you do. Just think, there were people who believed, strongly, the world was flat!

Second, if you want people to hear you and not have it become a battle royale, present a clear concept with organized thoughts. Barreling into a conversation full of passion might make it hard for others to hear your meaning. Just think, do you hear people best when they are yelling, or do you tend to shut them out?

Third, stick to the facts! Facts are provable. Beliefs are things we hold as true, even though they are not provable. Opinions are judgments but are not based in fact or knowledge. No one has to share beliefs, and opinions should stay out of controversial discussions!

Fourth, practice perspective taking. Beliefs are so valued, it is hard to understand or hear someone else’s that might oppose ours. But remember, they hold their views just as dear. Practice trying to see the world how someone else sees it to try and understand them better.

By practicing these four guidelines, you can work to reduce stress around controversial topics. Opening ourselves up to understanding others better helps improve feelings of connectivity, reduce anxiety, and increase our sense of community.