3 Ways to Approach Contentious Topics for Political Science Students

There are plenty of contentious topics that can instantly turn a pleasant conversation into a heated debate. Throughout our lives, we learn to avoid those.

We might not want to risk losing a couple of friends over a hot topic in our regular lives. But addressing some of these issues is an important task that can’t be ignored. This is especially true for those who dedicate their lives to things like studying political science.

Unfortunately, even in a professional setting, not everyone is capable of maintaining a civil discussion. This is an occupational hazard that political science students have to come to terms with.

Although arguments can, at times, become a little bit too heated, there are certain ways to minimize the consequences of getting close to a contentious topic. You will find some of them in this article.

Do Your Research

This is a general piece of advice that can be used in just about any life situation. This is doubly so when it comes to politically charged subjects. Public conversation can get chaotic pretty quickly.

The last thing you need is to add to it by throwing false facts into the fire. Always make sure you know exactly what you are talking about before you decide to enter a conversation.

You should absolutely have at least a couple of credible sources to back up your position on a given topic. Take your time to familiarize yourself with any material available that relates to the discussion:

  • Statistics;
  • Previous research;
  • Common arguments.

Try to approach the topic from multiple different angles. Don’t limit yourself to only looking up data that supports your position. Reading up on opposing viewpoints can be just as beneficial.

Even the small things may warrant a dive into helpful websites. For example, if you can’t come up with a gun control essay thesis, quickly skimming through available materials can provide you with the inspiration needed.

Empathize With Your Audience

The main reason political topics are so hard to navigate is that people often take it personally. It is very easy to offend someone nowadays. And while being offended is not really a valid counterargument, you should definitely consider possible emotional backlash as a factor when you approach a contentious topic. At the very least, you shouldn’t let it catch you off-guard.

It is human nature to have an emotional response to difficult topics. That does not necessarily mean that they are stupid or disingenuous. It’s just how human psychology works.

Don’t try to shrug it off. Address it in a calm and composed manner, but keep the discussion productive. Find a balance between understanding why people are upset about something but don’t let it cloud your thinking.

Keep an Open Mind

Another way to approach a conversation on political topics is to always keep an open mind. Entrenching into your beliefs and refusing to acknowledge another point of view is a very common trap many fall for. But being blind to possibilities around you doesn’t really help anyone. Discussing any topic in a scientific environment demands a flexible mindset.

The goal of any debate is never to embarrass or insult the other party. It is to find the truth. This simple principle is easily forgotten in the heat of an argument. But you should always remember that even though you might disagree with your opponent, you are still in it together, working to achieve a common goal.

So you should always consider the possibility of your position being the wrong one. Keep light on your feet, and don’t get too attached to your thesis. There is no shame in admitting your mistakes in the face of a solid argument.

In fact, it takes a lot of courage and dedication to the truth to do it. And these qualities will win you more respect in the long run than trying to shoehorn evidence to fit your beliefs.

Final Words

Don’t be intimidated by the negativity that surrounds politically charged topics. These can and will cause conflict. But as long as you come to an agreement through the course of that conflict, it’s absolutely worth the hassle. It is a natural process. Through the clash of beliefs is the way the truth is discovered.

When you are dealing with a contentious topic, you should be prepared to navigate the minefield of pretty difficult subjects. But as long as you don’t let it affect you personally, you will do fine. It may be tempting to take a light jab at your opponent or undermine their views.

Resisting these temptations in favor of having a productive and honest conversation is what separates an amateur from a true professional.







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