Are Political Differences Affecting Your Friendships?

If you find yourself in one uncomfortable situation after another following our recent national election, you’re not alone.

Generally, at this point after an election, tempers have calmed down and folks are either excited about a new administration — or resigned to wait out four years, with an eye to the future.

Not so with our country’s recent election.

The divisiveness continues, and the sides seem to be digging in their heels.  Which can make for uncomfortable encounters in our daily lives.

The old saying that cautions against discussing religion or politics is timely, although if the subject is totally ignored, it’s almost as if there’s an elephant in the room.  And that doesn’t seem genuine.

Tips for Healthy Communication

While there’s no universal solution, here are some approaches that may help to maintain your relationships, even through the stormy seas of political discourse:

  • Ask open-ended questions
  • Listen more and talk less
  • Watch your tone of voice
  • Don’t belittle the other person’s point of view
  • Realize you’re probably not going to change your friend’s views
  • Ditch the sarcasm
  • Be careful about distorting opposing views
  • Don’t attempt to impose your political beliefs on your friends
  • Agree to disagree
  • Hide social post feeds if you find them excessively negative
  • Don’t hold onto resentments
  • Know when to walk away if the situation gets too heated
  • Don’t make assumptions
  • Don’t take things personally
  • Focus on the things you have in common
  • And remember it’s not about who “wins”

By using open-ended questions and comments, you stand a better chance of engaging peacefully.  Here are a few objective phrases to try out:

  • I’d like to know your thoughts on …
  • Could you explain a little more about …
  • Do you have an example of that?
  • What about this scenario?
  • So, what I hear you saying is …
  • I see your point, although I have a different view.
  • I’ve never looked at it that way.

And if you really listen – instead of thinking of what you’re going to say next — it will make a big difference.

Beware of the temptation of “blocked listening” – in which you’re lying in wait for the opportunity to pounce and disagree.  Here’s a clue:  if you find yourself using the word “but” a lot, you’re likely engaging in blocked listening.

Realize that you’re unlikely to change your friend’s views or get him or her to adopt yours.  Above all, keep the conversation civil and maintain respect for the other party.  Your friendship was likely founded on deeper principles.  Sometimes the best you can do is agree to disagree.

And holding onto resentment is like drinking poison — and expecting the other person to get sick.