The 2016 election was very tough for a lot of us, on all sides. And for many it still is, again – on all sides. The country seems to already have been getting more and more polarized in the last 4 presidential election cycles prior to 2016, but 2016 really seems to stand out. One thing I started seeing on social media were posts saying something to the effect of “If you voted for XXXXX, unfriend, unfollow or block me now!” or something similar to that. Basically people letting their friends and family know that if they differed in their voting actions, then they wanted nothing to do with them. That’s pretty extreme and ultimately not how life works.
I found the entire process, the primaries, the election and the aftermath, pretty hard to take and I fell into that mindset of “I want nothing to do with the other side”… but I had to come to understand that drawing lines and putting up walls (no pun intended, truly) between family and friends who voted differently than me was pointless.
Here are a few things to consider for keeping your personal peace when conversing or interacting with friends and family who hold different views than you:
1. Try to stay calm.
Let friends know that if they want to discuss political ideas, current events, politicians’ actions, new casts and their hosts, or just whatever… that you’ll only do it in a sane, rational and calm way. Let them know that yelling or raised voices isn’t something you’re going to engage in, and if it comes to it, you’ll step out of the conversation. This can be a real way of showing love to the people who are close to you, but don’t share your view.
2. Keep it civil.
Let friends and family know that in the above context of staying calm and rational, you’ll also insist that insults stay off the table, and that goes for anyone – politicians, news anchors, pundits and especially anyone involved in the conversation you’re in. Insulting a person because of their politics is like insulting them over their religion, it’s never going to be a positive thing.
3. Set a boundary of non-engagement.
If the suggestions above don’t work for you, set a clear boundary with friends and family that you WILL NOT engage in conversations about politics. Let them know that you love them and want to spend time with them, not argue about what people in Washington DC are doing, or not doing. In my home, we have a very strict “no politics at night” rule. Basically, once dinner is over and we’re winding down for the day, we keep politics out of our evenings. We used to watch The Daily Show or some other satire, but even that still brings in something that we’re just not interested in.
4. Remember, people are not their politics.
Just because someone voted for someone or believes something on an issue that differs from your point of view, doesn’t make them a bad person. I think the toughest thing to accept in these last view days is so many people voted, not FOR a candidate, but against a candidate. Now you might say that’s not so abnormal, which is true, but in 2016 the candidates were such polar opposites that many people simply couldn’t accept or believe their friends and family brought themselves to vote for the other candidate. Here’s what I had to accept, it wasn’t that they liked or agreed with the person they voted for, but they felt so strongly that they had to vote against the other person. Here’s the important part… they felt the same way about the candidate that they voted against as I felt when I casted my vote. I wasn’t happy with who I voted for, but I felt a moral obligation to vote against the other candidate… as did many, many good people who voted the opposite of me. When you believe passionately in something, it’s hard to accept when friends and family vote the opposite of your strongly held belief. But that is life, and that is the beauty of the free society we live in.
5. When all else fails, change the subject!
That should be self-explanatory… if that doesn’t work, see suggestion #3. 🙂