How About Some Civil Discourse?

Avoid conversational landmines while staying strong in your beliefs

GROWING UP IN CALIFORNIA, I felt an immense pride in my parents’ immigration story. My family left India because of caste discrimination, an archaic system of societal division where your last name determines the height of your particular glass ceiling. They resettled in the United States, where my father started a successful business. I myself was encouraged by my parents and teachers to dream big, and make my own goals and markers of success. My background—being a brown, female, religious minority—never seemed to hold me back, even in the super-white, Republican stronghold of Orange County. All that mattered was my hard work and character.

Decades later, I watched in horror as Donald Trump spewed his xenophobic rhetoric on the national stage, betraying the very American ideals that enabled my life and achievements in this country. I told my manager at the tech company where I work that if Trump became the Republican nominee, I would take three months off to volunteer for Hillary Clinton’s campaign, spending a stint in North Carolina—a crucial swing state, and the first place I’d called home in America. I knew I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I didn’t try to stop the ascendance of a demagogue.

Fast forward to the end of October. I’d spent weeks in Durham, North Carolina, canvassing door to door and making phone calls to fellow Democrats. They largely shared my revulsion at Trump, and most promised to vote for Clinton. My goal on the trail was to get out the Democratic vote, rather than engage in lengthy—and likely unsuccessful—one-on-one debates with Trump supporters. But this type of confrontation was sometimes unavoidable, and I’d find myself choosing between trying to change their minds or simply engaging in conversation without the ambition of conversion.

One day, another volunteer asked me to speak to her daughter. “She’s 15. Can you talk to her, and tell her why you support Hillary?” The girl eyed me warily. It was obvious this wasn’t the first time she had been thrust into this situation, so I asked, “Why don’t you tell me what you’re thinking?” She paused. “Well, everyone at my school is for Trump. And I don’t believe in abortion, I think it’s wrong. But with the gay thing, I guess they can do what they want.” The argumentative side of my brain immediately begged to spar in intellectual debate, but the rational side told me: You’re not going to win this. She isn’t even sure what she believes. This wasn’t the battle I wanted to pick.

Instead, I told her how I became involved in politics in high school, right after President George W. Bush declared war on Iraq. My friends and I pinned handmade “Don’t Attack Iraq” patches on our backpacks, engaged the Young Republicans club in a campus debate, stuck anti-war bumper stickers on our cars, and publicly stood up for what we believed in. “Don’t just listen to your friends,” I advised. “Do your own research. Decide what matters to you, and stay involved.” The girl smiled at me, and turned back to her mother.

Our new political reality has exposed a deep divide, and subsequently, the need to learn how to talk to one another as human beings—for the sake of a lifetime of more bearable dinners with in-laws; for being true to yourself at work without damaging career prospects; for less awkward uberPools when you’re trapped alongside someone with whom you vehemently disagree. Or for the sake of not alienating a teenager from engaging in politics in the future.

This election may have brought out the worst in many of us, but it’s possible to engage in polarized conversations without killing your integrity. Start here:


What we value and believe are the products of our life experiences. If you disagree with your parents, try talking about how your life after high school has shaped or changed your worldview. Did college open your eyes to non-binary gender identities? Did you work at a job where many of your coworkers were immigrants? Did you move to a part of the country where people grew up differently than you did? Share the stories that make you who you are. They can’t disagree with your experience.


There’s no faster way to kill a conversation than by calling someone a racist (or a sexist, or a homophobe). People respond negatively to being labeled as an individual and, honestly, you never know what’s truly running through someone’s mind. It’s more productive to label a specific policy or belief as racist instead. Sometimes it will sound like you’re splitting hairs, but keep at it: “I’m not saying you’re racist. What I’m saying is that a national identification system for Muslims unfairly assumes that they’re all terrorists, and defies the American value of freedom from a tyrannical government … ”


For a truly meaningful exchange, you should be ready to listen. A good place to start is asking them what they envision as success. “What’s your vision for immigration in America?” or “In your ideal world, how should the government help your family?” These types of inquiries are better for keeping conversation going, rather than asking technical questions that can make people feel dumb or as if they’re failing a test. Not everyone knows the specifics of the Affordable Care Act, but most people could tell you they don’t want to pay more for health care while someone else gets a “free ride”—plus, you’re more likely to learn something about them and their values in the process.


A great communication tip I received at work was: “If you’re feeling emotional about it, don’t write it down. Talk it out in person.” If you’re wondering whether you should add an emoji to the end of a message to soften its blow, then you probably should converse off-screen. Facial expressions and body language are important for building intimacy and conveying the nuance of your words.

via The Howard Stern Show / YouTube

Former Secretary of State, first lady, and winner of the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton, sat own for an epic, two-and-a--half hour interview with Howard Stern on his SiriusXM show Wednesday.

She was there to promote "The Book of Gutsy Women," a book about heroic women co-written with her daughter, Chelsea Clinton.

In the far-reaching conversation, Clinton and the self-proclaimed "King of All Media" and, without a doubt, the best interviewer in America discussed everything from Donald Trump's inauguration to her sexuality.

Keep Reading Show less

Offering parental leave for new fathers could help close the gender gap, removing the unfair "motherhood penalty" women receive for taking time off after giving birth. However, a new study finds that parental leave also has a pay gap. Men are less likely to take time off, however, when they do, they're more likely to get paid for it.

A survey of 2,966 men and women conducted by New America found that men are more likely to receive paid parental leave. Over half (52%) of fathers had fully paid parental leave, and 14% of fathers had partially paid parental leave. In comparison, 33% of mothers had fully paid parental leave and 19% had partially paid parental leave.

Keep Reading Show less

Bans on plastic bags and straws can only go so far. Using disposable products, like grabbing a plastic fork when you're on the go, can be incredibly convenient. But these items also contribute to our growing plastic problem.

Fortunately, you can cut down on the amount of waste you produce by cutting down on disposable products. And even more fortunately, there are sustainable (and cute) replacements that won't damage the environment.

Coconut bowls


Who says sustainable can't also be stylish? These cute coconut bowls were handmade using reclaimed coconuts, making each piece one of a kind. Not only are they organic and biodegradable, but they're also durable, in case your dinner parties tend to get out of hand. The matching ebony wood spoons were polished with the same coconut oil as the bowls.

Cocostation Set of 2 Vietnamese Coconut Bowls and Spoons, $14.99; at Amazon

Solar powered phone charger


Why spend time looking around for an outlet when you can just harness the power of the sun? This solar powered phone charger will make sure your phone never dies as long as you can bask in the sun's rays. As an added bonus, this charger was made using eco-friendly silicone rubber. It's win-win all around.

Dizaul Solar Charger, 5000mAh Portable Solar Power Bank, $19.95; at Amazon, $19.95; at Amazon

Herb garden kit

Planter Pro

Put some green in your life with this herb planter. The kit comes with everything you need to get a garden growing, including a moisture meter that helps you determine if your herbs are getting the right amount of food to flourish. All the seeds included are certified to be non-GMO and non-hybrids, meaning you can have fresh, organic herbs right at your fingertips.

Planter Pro's Herb Garden Cedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazonedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazon

Reusable Keurig cups

K & J

Keurig cups are convenient, but they also create a ton of plastic waste. These Keurig-compatible plastic cups are an easy way to cut down on the amount of trash you create without cutting down on your caffeine. Additionally, you won't have to keep on buying K Cups, which means you'll be saving money and the environment.

K&J Reusable Filter Cups, $8.95 for a set of 4,; at Amazon

Low-flow shower head


Low-flow water fixtures can cut down your water consumption, which saves you money while also saving one of the Earth's resources. This shower head was designed with a lighter flow in mind, which means you'll be able to cut down on water usage without feeling like you're cutting down on your shower.

Speakman Low Flow Shower Head, $14.58; at Amazon

Bamboo safety razor


Instead of throwing away a disposable razor every time you shave, invest in an eco-friendly, reusable one. This unisex shaver isn't just sustainable, it's also sharp-looking, which means it would make a great gift for the holidays.

Zomchi Safety Razor, $16.99; at Amazon

The Planet