It’s no secret that the temperature in politics is heating up. With Election Day just two months away, it will only get worse in the coming weeks. If you are stressed out over what this means for family and friends you don’t see eye to eye with, you aren’t the only one! But what if there was a way to get through this season with relationships in tact—without muting friends and family we disagree with? Can we still like each other when our political positions differ? I think we can.
For 3 tips on how to survive, keep reading below. For an entire book on how to build relationships that survive our biggest differences go here!
Know when (and when not) to engage
One of the things that has made political discourse as heated as it has, is that every statement from someone we disagree with seems like something we need to correct them on or convince them of. We treat every hill as a hill worth dying on. If we want to stay sane this election season, we need to figure out what are the issues and the ideas we care about the most? What deserves full engagement? Put your energy towards those. But how do you figure out what those issues are? Let’s break it down this way: We all have beliefs, convictions, and opinions. Beliefs are the things we hold most dear. These get the most attention and energy from us. Our thoughts on these are so engrained into who we are, we don’t ever imagine changing our minds. These are the things worth fighting for. Our convictions are important to us, but we understand others may see things differently. Though we feel emotion around them, they aren’t as foundational to our identity as our beliefs are. Finally, there are our opinions. We have thoughts on these, but these change more easily. Our opinions get the least amount of energy. If we are going to survive election season, we need to stop treating every opposing idea as a threat to our beliefs. Decide now, before getting in an argument with friends or family, what are the things worth arguing about, and what can you hear and say, “I disagree, but that is not going to get my emotional energy right now.”
A different belief doesn’t necessarily mean a wrong belief.
We all like to be right. It’s easy to think, when it comes to politics, there is a right way to believe and vote and a wrong way. Thinking we have picked the right side allows us to feel more comfortable in where we have landed and can convince us to be less thoughtful in engaging with people who vote differently. After all, if the choice is between right and wrong, and they are wrong, we don’t have to listen to them. But let’s be honest, refusing to listen, engage, and be curious towards people on the opposing side hasn’t gone us any favors. Learning to see opposing views as different views and not necessarily wrong ones will allow us to behave more empathetically and compassionately. (That isn’t to say there aren’t wrong and hurtful beliefs. But different does not always equal wrong.) So what if instead of trying to prove our rightness, we leaned in to wonder why others think the way they do? Instead of trying to convince them of their wrongness, what if we asked questions about the beliefs that motivate them to think/vote the way they do? When we stop seeing sides, political ideologies, and voting blocs as right/wrong and instead as ways to value different priorities, we will feel less frustration and more empathy towards those not like us.
Remember that everyone is more than their political view.
In the middle of election season, it is easy to only see each other as the sum of our voting choices. So, to survive these next couple of months, we need to widen our perspective. If your friends and family are baffling you in their voting choices, remember the things that connected you in the first place, the things you share in common that are bigger than the candidates you favor. Instead of making a judgment on them as a whole because of their political persuasion, consider that their political views are just a part of what makes them who they are—just as it is a part of what makes you who you are. Finally, in remembering people are more than their views, consider curiosity rather than shame in learning why they vote the way they do. Be generous in your assessment of people. Instead of jumping to conclusions and making character judgments, ask questions.
The next couple of months will most likely cause an uncomfortable level of relational strain with people we care a lot about. But broken relationships are avoidable. We can create relationships capable of withstanding a tense political season and also thrive on the other side.
Interested in learning more? Check out The Space Between Us: How Jesus Teaches Us to Live Together When Politics and Religion Pull Us Apart here!
The Space Between Us offers a way forward in a time we need it most. Readers have said:
“It gives me so hope for my relationships with my dad.”
“One of the best things I did this year was read this book.”