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How to Talk About Current Events Without “Getting Political”

I want to talk about how we talk about tough stuff today. There are a lot of difficult things going on in the world right now, and I feel like we have reached an unprecedented level of polarization in America. Everything – even a major community health crisis like a global pandemic – is being heavily politicized, divided into “red against blue”.

So where does that leave us 4C women, who come from a variety of backgrounds, belief systems, and political affiliations? How do we support each other as we navigate our very real and often very deep feelings about current events and how they affect our New Lives? How can we capably and competently process the effect these topics are having on us whilst simultaneously maintaining caring and compassion for ourselves and our Sisters?

The easiest-to-manage answer is to just put a complete moratorium on anything “political” in our groups, which has been a practice in WFS in the past. However, given that it seems like nearly everything is a political issue these days, it doesn’t feel like that is a sustainable or helpful solution, and is likely to strip our meetings of the dynamism that our founder Dr. Jean Kirkpatrick intended for us. I would propose that the complicated challenges facing today’s women call for more nuanced solutions.

A Sister on our WFS Online community summarized the need for a conscientious approach well by saying,”The political IS personal because it influences our lives, our thoughts, our feelings, our anxiety levels, our enthusiasm and capacity to think positively about the future.”

So, here are some ideas on how we can effectively navigate these difficult topics whilst also gaining support for our New Lives, respecting the diversity of our Sisters, and maintaining a safe space for all:

  • We can share about our personal emotions without directly referencing which “side” of a political issue we stand on.
  • If that’s not possible, we can share about our personal emotions in response to a current event without trying to persuade others to agree with us.
  • When someone opens up to us about their emotions, we can keep our response focused on their personal experience, and leave our own opinions out of it.
  • If we are feeling emotionally activated by someone else’s share, we can take a break before responding. If we are really having a difficult time staying in compassion, we can simply choose to not say anything at all.
  • We can reach out to our personal support system (outside of WFS) for help processing our own emotions if needed, without trying to rally others to take our viewpoint or pitting Sisters against Sisters.
  • If a 4C Sister comes to us for individual support, we can support them emotionally without getting involved in their interpersonal conflict. We can take what they are saying with a grain of salt, knowing that their perspective and interpretation is just that – theirs – and that we don’t have to take their opinion on ourselves.
  • We can refrain from contacting someone individually in response to something shared in a group setting that we disagree with, especially if our contact is unwelcome.
  • We can respect others’ boundaries if they tell us they need a break from a topic, or from us.
  • We can respect the guidance of our community facilitators (Certified Chat Leaders, Forum Management Team, and Certified Moderators) by respecting their requests to redirect our sharing to focus on recovery, return to the topic at a meeting, or otherwise modify our behavior to be in line with WFS philosophy and guidelines.
  • We can assume good intentions, even when behavior is unskillful.
  • We can acknowledge and accept that most of us are here precisely because we don’t have the best skills at navigating challenging situations, that each 4C Sister is in a different place in her healing journey, and that we are all doing the best we can with the tools that we have available to us.

Talking about controversial current events, politics, and other types of difficult topics in WFS meetings might be new ground for some of us. But I believe that we are 4C, capable of keeping the focus on ourselves and our recoveries, without wading into persuasion and convincing. There will probably be missteps. Some of us will make mistakes. I might get caught up in the moment and spout an opinion or two – it has been known to happen. But I have a lot of faith in 4C women. I’ve seen us do some pretty amazing things!

With Much Love,
Adrienne Miller
WFS President/CEO

Do you have any additional ideas about ways to talk about the effect that current events are having on our New Lives without getting into debate or conflict? Please share them here!

You are also invited to the new inclusion workgroup of 4C women exploring how to dismantle our personal and organizational biases. Please participate in our brief survey to assist us with planning!

One thought on “How to Talk About Current Events Without “Getting Political”

  1. We had this same problem after the last presidential election. Our meetings would frequently sway off topic into politics because there was so much emotion at the time. We had one woman who was offended frequently. It was a constant job of pulling the ladies back onto topic. One tool we found worked well was saying let’s table these discussions for after the meeting and we can go meet in the hospital cafeteria. In fact that was my go to whenever someone started straying off topic. Thanks for this informative information.

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