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How to Talk About Politics With Loved Ones

Once again the election year is upon us. Back in 2016 I spoke with CBS Philly regarding ways to patch up your relationships with friends and family after a heated election year. Much like four years ago, our political climate is currently very tense, the stark division in parties creating relationship turmoil when people are not in agreement over which candidate should win.

With major events in 2020, like the pandemic and George Floyd’s death, people have become even more passionate about their political standings and what should be done to move the country forward into a safer and positive direction. It can be extremely difficult to remain impartial when listening to political views voiced by loved ones that you find in direct opposition with your own. The following are 3 tips for keeping calm and preventing differing political opinions among friends, family, or romantic partners from escalating in to burned bridges.

#1: Watch Your Reactions

In order to maintain relationships with people whose opinions differ from our own we have to be mindful of how we react. Nobody likes a gloater or a sore loser. Just because you may feel that you have a right to scream to the roof tops “I told you so” doesn’t mean it is appropriate to do so in the presence of people that are saddened by the election’s outcome. Be mindful that everyone is personally affected differently by politics, and that something that is a joyous occasion for you could be a slap in the face for others and vice versa.

It can also be constructive to put those emotions into action rather than vainly arguing with others. Instead of worrying about what your loved ones are thinking, focus on what you can do to act on your political beliefs and make the world a better place. Find perspectives of agreement to discuss with family and friends and remember that you can and should still advocate for issues that are important to you after the election. 

Photo by Polina Zimmerman from Pexels

#2: Put The Person Before Politics

Try to understand why the person you love made this decision. There is more to a person than who they voted for. This might be a grounding thought to keep in mind when disagreeing with someone’s preferred presidential candidate.

If you remember the positive things that you value and admire in that person, it will be easier to accept your differences in opinion and still maintain the relationship. Perhaps avoiding political conversations specifically and redirecting the conversation instead to topics you feel similar about or can disagree on respectfully will be an effective strategy to pursue.

faceless man holding up a letterboard that says not my president

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

#3: No Politics At Family Gatherings (especially the holidays)

If you suspect the conversation will lead to an argument, it is best to avoid bringing up political discussion at the dinner table during a family gathering. Holidays are meant to bring loved ones together and celebrate each other through quality time and traditions, not controversial discussions that can only go downhill.

However, if it seems like the people involved are able to speak respectfully and find common ground with each other, important discussions shouldn’t be avoided just because they may cause some discomfort. You never know what breakthroughs may come from effectively producing open lines of communication. You can prepare an exit strategy or conversation starter if you see that the discussion is going in a harmful direction.

several people surrounding dinner table getting ready to eat

Photo by fauxels from Pexels

Dr. George James (@GeorgeTalks), Chief Innovation Officer, Senior Staff Therapist & Supervisor at Council for Relationships, Assistant Professor for the Couple and Family Therapy Program at Thomas Jefferson University and CEO of George Talks LLC.

Jamie McClelland, is a senior at Villanova University, double majoring in English and Communications with a specialization in media production.

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