You have probably heard the common phrase “don’t talk about religion or politics with a stranger.” Often, the only defense given if you question this idea is “people get touchy.” But is that really that great of a reason? If people get touchy when talking about these issues, I don’t think the solution is to stop talking about the issues. The solution is to stop being touchy. Talking about our ideas with others leads to a better understanding of each other and keeps us from believing ridiculous fantasies. So, if you would like to climb over this barrier and begin casually approaching “touchy” subjects with strangers, here is a quick guide.

1. Sneak up to the topic from behind.

Don’t just come right out and say “so, what are your religious beliefs?” Try starting with “what church do you go to?” Once they answer that, you could ask follow-up questions like “do you agree with everything that they teach?” If you’re trying to talk about politics, try starting with “did you ever dream of becoming president someday?” Then you can lead the conversation to “which president do you think you’d be the most like?”

2. Don’t let your own beliefs become known.

This part is extremely important. People are more defensive if they think you disagree with them. At least at the beginning of the conversation, try to be coy and only ask them about their ideas or beliefs before presenting your own. Once you do present your opinions…

3. Be kind.

Always pivot back to kindness. Make it clear that you care about them on a personal level, even if you are total opposites when it comes to politics or religious things. Side note, if you don’t actually care about them, then you might not be the best candidate for influencing their beliefs.

It’s not complicated or hard. You just talk. You don’t have to convince anyone of anything. The main purpose of this exercise is simply to relax barriers and help people become comfortable talking about these issues. One more thing: knowing when and who to talk to  is often the hardest part, but don’t worry about it. The opportunities usually present themselves, you don’t need to go looking for it.

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