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Lessons in love and arguments from the presidential debate

Is it necessarily a bad sign if you and your significant other don’t agree on politics? Not at all. To the contrary, disagreeing about something most people are so passionate about will help you better handle other sticky situations and disagreements. But you have to learn the rules first. After watching the presidential debate, here are a few tips we learned on how to agree to disagree…

Pick your political battles
Couple arguing

Keep it clean

A topic we are passionate about can make our temper flare when we meet opposition, and flared tempers have no place in a healthy debate. Pretty soon you find words like “stupid” and “fat-head” and “liar” falling from your lips. Obama and Romney both broke a fundamental rule of engagement in the second debate by saying that what the other said “simply wasn’t true.” That’s just a fancy way of saying “Liar, liar, pants on fire.” If you find yourself name-calling, it’s time to slip away and cool off for a few minutes. It’s not constructive and you reveal yourself as the weaker debater because it tells the other person, “I’ve run out of compelling arguments… butt-head.”

Big BirdPick your battles

Respectful discourse is a skill that, frankly, few have mastered. But all it takes is a little practice and watching something potentially inflammatory like the presidential debate, especially if you and your honey have political party differences, is a great place to start.

It’s important to realize there is a reason why people develop certain political opinions, and many of them start at a young age. At times when you criticize another’s political beliefs, you may be unknowingly criticizing their upbringing, their parents, their childhood or making them feel like you are questioning their intelligence. The first rule of polite discourse is to say something positive about the opponent’s point. Romney has done this several times in both debates. On a few occasions, he has said, “I agree with the president,” followed by why they agree in principle but are divided on policy.

The second rule of polite discourse is to pick your battles. When the day is done, politics is about mostly well-intended people willing to tackle the problems of our country but in different ways. You don’t have to make a huge production over every point/counter-point. If you find yourself in a heated debate with your partner, step back and ask yourself just how important is the issue that is causing unpleasantness? Maybe instead of making a federal case about preserving Big Bird and funding for PBS, save your energy for something bigger, like the national debt or the war. And if the exchange becomes really heated, remember this…

You’ll never change someone’s mind

OK, never say never. You’ll rarely change someone’s mind. Just think about it. If you went to the corner watering hole after the debate, you would have likely found some lively conversations between Republicans and Democrats. But do you honestly believe anyone got up from those conversations with a fresh perspective? Probably not. Politics, like religion, values, ethics and morals, is something that is ingrained in us. You need to accept that no matter how brilliant your position or argument is, you are not going to change your significant other’s mind. So if you find yourself in an ugly disagreement, stop and ask yourself, “What am I doing here?”

We all like to prove a point, but make yours and let that be good enough. Stubbornly arguing a contentious point between you and your boyfriend is futile. You won’t change his mind, and you’ll start to think things that aren’t really fair or true, like he’s obnoxious, opinionated or a “fat-head.” Think about it. Do you really think Romney is ever going to get Obama to sign off on his tax plan as a good idea? Uh, that’s a no.

Know your stuff

This sort of ties in with “pick your battles.” Knowing your stuff is important for a number of reasons. Don’t argue a point simply based on the fact that it is in direct opposition to the other’s guy’s position. If you just regurgitate rhetoric, you’ll look like a hand puppet and you’ll ultimately lose any and every debate because you won’t know what you’re talking about. If something is important to you, do your homework. While your sweetie isn’t going to change his mind, he’ll respect you for having based your opinion on valid information.

Obama vs. Romney: What they think about abortion and Planned Parenthood >>

Don’t be a poor loser

Lastly, but possibly most importantly, don’t be a poor loser. Take a page out of the book from the big boys. Romney and Obama always shake hands at the end of the debate. While last night’s debate doesn’t seem to have a clear “winner,” the debate ended the way it began — with a handshake. It says, “Let’s agree to disagree.” Maybe in the presidential debate’s case, it means, “I hate you and everything you stand for, but the cameras are rolling so come here and shake my hand you big lug.” Mastering the tools for healthy debate won’t just help you to see your partner’s perspective in a more respectful way, it will help you navigate several of the debates, fights and misunderstandings that are associated with being in a relationship.

More on the elections

Presidential debate: Romney 1, Big Bird 0
Watching the presidential debates with your kids
Mommy tweets: Celeb moms on presidential debate, plus Mariah Carey

Photo credit: Sesame Workshop via WENN

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