How do I talk to relatives and friends in different political parties?

A common thing many of us are struggling with right now is how to continue in relationships with people who supported or continue to support candidates and policies we don’t agree with.

First, it is critically important to define political differences from moral ones. In fact, for the last decade or so, I would argue that we have not been talking about political differences as much as moral ones. For example, political differences around immigration have to do with who and how many and procedures for entering a country. Moral differences arise when someone sees children kept in cages, separated from their parents and the only thing they can say is “well, their parents shouldn’t have come here illegally”.

It is helpful to gain clarity on what the actual differences are (moral or political) and go from there. Having a difference in opinion politically from our friends and relatives broadens our knowledge base and can enrich our lives.  These differences can lead to rich discussions that help us gain a better understanding of our friends and the world at large.   They are ­­­­­­­best approached with curiosity and question asking.  The intention is to understand and learn, not convince others of are view.  These conversations are reciprocal, with each party expressing interest in the other’s viewpoint. 

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash retrieved on 1/10/2021

Moral Differences

Moral differences are a much trickier situation. They are more emotionally charged and challenging.  This is because our morals are the foundation of who we are. They serve as a blueprint for our actions.  It is natural to feel protective and cautious around someone with different morals because they could pose a threat to your way of life.  There certainly may be people you stay in a relationship with who have moral differences, but it changes the mind frame.  It is no longer “agree to disagree” as much as developing compassion (not pity) and having really clear expectations of what to expect from the relationship. For example, if they are ok with seeing that kid in a cage as mentioned above, at some point they will be ok with your suffering. Boundaries are super important here. 

Why do we have such a strong reaction and what should we do with it?

Anyone who has worked with the Nurtured Well, LLC team is probably sick and tired of hearing about mindfulness.  We get it, we’re repetitive but that is because it works!  If you are not familiar with mindfulness you can read about it here*. 

The idea is not necessarily to go into deep mediation.  It is to be really reflective on what you are feeling and thinking without putting judgement on it.  Just observe.  Sometimes are reaction has nothing to do with the actual topic, it has to do with thoughts and feelings planted long ago.  For example, you see a Facebook post that really upsets you and you want to cut the poster out of your life immediately.  Is it that you feel the content of the post is hurtful? Conversely, is it that the poster and you have actually been in a long, maladaptive relationship in which that person is constantly disrespectful of you and this is the last straw? Theses are very different situations.  However, we can create a narrative about either scenario pretty quickly and it won’t be helpful.

So how do I navigate these situations?

  1. Using mindfulness, observe what you are really feeling and thinking. Observe yourself like a scientist.  The answer will then be clearer.
  2. If you do believe, after much contemplation, that the relationship is simply toxic let the person go.  This is really hard for people, especially women as we are raised to be “agreeable”, however, you are worthy of healthy relationships.  In some situations, you may not be able to sever ties.  Perhaps it is a relative or the spouse of a good friend.  In that case set BOUNDARIES!
  3. Set boundaries: you can “unfollow” them on Facebook.  They will not know but you simply won’t see their posts. Covid is the perfect excuse to avoid get togethers, even virtual ones.  “I’m so sorry, I’m on screen all day for work and just can’t do another Zoom.”
  4. Control the conversation.  If a relative or friend tries to bring up topics you know will only be divisive, steer the conversation to something neutral.  For example, you can say: “I know so many important things are going on but right now I just need to keep it light.  What shows have you been watching?”
  5. Fill your cup.  Now is the time to double down on the things that keep you grounded.  Whether it is prayer, mediation, or exercise, be religious about practicing it.  

These are challenging times to say the least.  You are not alone in this.  We are all navigating theses issues.  We are here to help. 

*This blog post has to do with mindfulness and fertility but the concepts discussed and resources listed are good for all types of situaitons.

Featured image at top by Anthony Tran on Unsplash retrieved 1/9/2021.

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