Most of the time we agree with our friends and loved ones. After all, we became friends with that person for a reason and as for family, generally we’re on the same page in life. So what do we do when the views of our friends and loved ones conflict with our own?
Given our highly charged and polarized political climate, we increasingly find that some of our friends and loved ones have political views that come into direct conflict with our own. Social media is rife with people who unfriend or unfollow their one-time pals, saying “if that’s how you think, I can’t possibly remain friends with you!”
Of course, people have always had differing political views, so that’s hardly a new phenomena. However, today we have virtually instant communications and with the meteoric rise in social media, the views of our friends and loved ones come blaring into our personal world, often shocking us.
What do we do?
We can’t keep kicking our friends to the proverbial curb and we certainly can’t alienate our family simply because they think differently than we do. After all, if they think differently than you, then to them, you’re the one with the opposing views, so we have to be mindful to not be hypocritical. Its also important that we remember that in a free society, differing views and opinions are absolutely vital to the health of democracy. If we all thought the same, it wouldn’t only be boring, but it would be dangerous to our creativity and dynamism.
Some things we can do:
Find common ground again. Focus on what you have in common and on the reasons you became friends in the first place. Something drew you together, so recall that attraction and common ground and keep that first and foremost in your mind.
Listen. Learn more about your friends or family member’s perspective — be willing to let them speak without cutting them off and ask them open-ended questions so they can elaborate. It’s also a good idea to ask them for clarification — re-state what they said to make sure you understand it correctly and then ask them to clarify anything you’re not clear on.
Be open minded. Political beliefs are personal and tricky issues, because they’re usually shaped by childhood environments or life experiences. Its very easy to get emotional about politics and too often, when we sense someone has opposing views, we unconsciously close off — if you find yourself in a political discussion and use the word “but” too often, it could mean you’re engaged in “blocked listening.” Block listening means you’re selectively listening to your friend’s words so that you can find an opportunity to actively disagree with them.
Avoid a battle of wills. “I’m right and you’re wrong!” Telling people they are wrong rarely changes their mind and it certainly won’t improve the relationship. Political beliefs are based on our own interpretation of facts and just as someone is unlikely to change your own views with quotes and “facts,” you’re unlikely to change your friend’s mind either — for every fact and quote you bring up, they’ll counter with ones that they feel are valid.
Return to civility and mutual respect
If an issue (s) are important to your values and your friend or loved one has an opposing view, let them know you disagree and explain why. After you’ve heard their views, share your own and calmly explain your stance. In essence, one has to “agree to disagree,” to preserve the relationship.
Social media has been pitched as a means to “bring us closer together.” The prevailing wisdom is proving its done anything but bring us closer together.
Be mindful of your social media feed. We don’t want to find our own social media feed full of opinions we disagree with, so we have to be mindful not to do that to others as well. Social media may not be the proper place for politics — there are many people who feel that politics has ruined the fabric of social media. Its probably okay to share the occasional political opinion, but its not healthy to bombard the feed with all politics, all the time. Some people can’t help themselves and this does pose a tricky problem: do we unfriend or unfollow, or do we perhaps opt to “see less of……..” in our settings? Its important to be prepared to just ignore it — it may be difficult, but it can be done. Don’t respond or click like and just let it go. Focus on non-controversial things that are of mutual interest to you both.
Relationships can be tricky and its really a personal decision on whether to continue or end a relationship. Before we end one, giving it some careful consideration is prudent, as throwing away a friendship is never fun.