Maryland Forward Party

PEP Talk Core Principles: Six Ways To Disarm Political Fights - Define Your Terms

15 March, 2024


Developed by Pete Oliver-Krueger, head of our Priorities and Policies Committee, the Prioritizing Epic Problems (PEP) Talk is a fresh approach to politics, encouraging constructive dialogue, bridging divides in political discourse and reaching consensus on identifying pressing issues.

It is built on six core principles from the fields of Positive Psychology and Meditation. We'll be showcasing one of these principles each week as we head into Easter, Passover, and Holy Week. Together they can help turn arguments into collaborations. Hopefully some of them will help you to have better conversations at your family gatherings. The first principle in disarming political fights is to Define Your Terms


One of the biggest misconceptions that we experience is everyone’s belief that words mean the same thing to everyone. Dictionaries are great, but they give us a false sense that everybody shares the same definitions when in reality they often do not. What a word, phrase, or topic means to you may be substantially different than what it means to somebody else. When this happens, every time you use that word or phrase, the other person is thinking of a different concept than the one you thought they were thinking about. As a result, you may be in a disagreement without actually disagreeing with the other person.


If you are using a word or phrase to represent a larger concept, take a moment to share your definition. Just be careful to put the responsibility on yourself for defining your terms. If the other person thinks you are defining the term because they’re too stupid to know what it means, then you’re in trouble, so address that up front.

Here are some examples of how you should frame a word or concept:

  • “I know you already know this. I just want to clarify that when I say _______ I mean ______.”
  • “I don’t know if you have the same definition of _______ as I do, so let me just say quickly that when I say _______ I mean ________.”
  • “The definition I use when I say ______ is ________.”

Keep tuning in every week to see the next PEP Talk core principle in disarming political fights. As a preview, next week's topic will be “Model” New Behaviors & Make Teaching Optional.

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