Controversial Discussion Should be Encouraged, Not Avoided

Anjali Aralikar, page editor

You’re eating dinner with your family around the holidays and talking with each other. As conversations do, the topic turns to current events. Do you or do you not bring up something controversial?

I’m certain that your initial gut reaction was: ‘Heck no! What are you even talking about?!’ And that’s understandable. It’s horrifically uncomfortable to even bring up some of these issues, especially if you fear offending a loved one. Maybe all you want to do is avoid the arguments, the tension, and the loss of a perfectly good evening. However, none of this justifies avoiding controversial discussions altogether.

We live in an age where the majority of the population consumes information tailored to their own biases, and critical judgment of this information is often disregarded. I believe this usually happens because it’s easier for us to ignore an opposing side when we can just read opinions that support our specific biases and nothing else, thus reducing the amount of deep thinking about a specific issue that we have to do. This state of ignorance is extremely detrimental for us and our culture because it strengthens our biases about almost every important issue in our society and about each other. By avoiding the discussion of controversial issues, our personal biases will only get stronger.

But when you discuss controversial issues with someone who doesn’t have the same views as you, you subvert your biases and ignorance. In a way, you can start to understand their views or, at the very least, understand that there are views like theirs outside of your bias bubble. Sometimes, you’ll find yourself questioning your own views after listening to someone else’s reasoning, which is the point of discussing these issues in the first place. By discussing these issues, you force yourself to look critically at an issue and figure out its pros and cons. In this way, rather than thinking about how right you are, you start to think about the issue as a whole, which encourages a greater understanding of the world around you.

Unfortunately, it’s easy to think of these discussions as arguments, which isn’t the point. Although large scale clashes are sometimes unavoidable, these types of discussions are more about the learning experience. I’m not saying that you have to empathize with every viewpoint. Rather, you should simply try to understand the other person’s approach, where they’re coming from, and why they believe the things they do. If you don’t agree with what they are saying, just say you disagree and why you disagree, and try not to get too worked up about it. This way, you can have an intellectual conversation about controversial issues without the major clashes and angry outbursts.

So the next time you’re having dinner with your family, don’t be afraid bring up something controversial. It’s extremely easy to discuss these issues without getting into an argument. You just have to remember to pop your bias bubble and open yourself up to a wonderfully complex and controversial world.