Though many credit the COVID-19 pandemic for the relatively less tensed political campaign season ahead of the 2020 general election, the campaigning has still taken its toll on some relationships.
Friends have argued, driven to their breaking points and others have basically cut each other out of their lives.
There have been bad blood on social media and in offline political discussions conversations because a family member or a friend expressed an opposing view.
However, political differences should never be a deal breaker. That is the whole point about a democracy – to agree to disagree.
Even before political discourse became as polarized (and high-octane) as it is today, it could be challenging to maintain a strong relationship with someone who sees the world differently from you. But all hope is not lost if you love someone on the opposite end of the political spectrum.
Relationship experts Candace R. Cooper MRC, LPCA and Kristen Rogers, M.A., have some tips and advice on how to manage your relationship with someone or a partner who holds a different political opinion.
‘Listen to Understand’
The act of “listening to understand” is a crucial part of active listening, which enables you to have a more productive conversation with your partner. Oftentimes we listen simply so we can have a reply or rebuttal, but we didn’t actively process what was just said; “listening to understand” is working to be sure you hear your partner.
Practicing active listening is a skill that takes time. Try summarizing what your partner just said to help you understand and to show that you were listening: “So what I’m hearing is that you believe raising the minimum wage will have a negative impact on the economy?” This gives them a chance to confirm, or to clarify if needed.
Keep Debates Civil
It’s one thing when a debate is fueled by passion; it’s another when it’s fueled by rage. Aggression can be a major block to successful active listening; arguments tend to be more about getting that last word in versus giving everyone space to discuss.
Keep the debate civil by not raising your voice, not interrupting your partner, and by staying on-topic rather than bringing up multiple subjects (particularly if you tend to get personal when things get heated). It’s a sign of disrespect when you do these things, and disrespect has no place in a relationship.
Be Honest About What You Value
Sometimes, people aren’t honest with themselves about what they truly value and care about deep down. In an attempt to say all the “right” things, they undermine their actual beliefs, which makes it difficult to have an honest discussion.
While your partner may not agree, this gives them a better understanding of where you are coming from so you can “fight fair.”
Use Anecdotes As Well as Facts
Using facts shows that you’re educated on your position and have arrived at your conclusion rationally, while bringing in a personal anecdote can drive your opinion home.,
If your partner is engaging in active listening, yet still not understanding your point of view, try using anecdotes if you can: “My parents never made much more than minimum wage their whole lives and we struggled getting basic necessities- it was hard for us.”
This type of personal language can help your partner see that coming from a place of experience – and often to react to it as someone who loves you, not someone who disagrees with you.
Know Your Deal-Breakers and Triggers
Knowing what you truly cannot tolerate is important when discussing politics with a partner – current or potential.
There is no need to compromise your core morals and values for anyone, and that can translate into the political sphere as well.
Those specific deal-breakers and triggers are different for everyone, so Rogers recommends figuring out what you’re unwilling to budge on, and being absolutely transparent with a potential partner that there’s no room for negotiation on those topics. In the minimum wage example, you might say, “Your views around access to wages and job access really heightens my anxiety around job security- this isn’t going to work out.”
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