There’s a lot to be gained from friends with different opinions. That said, it can be difficult to maintain friendships with people who have strongly held opinions, politically speaking. This is why the editorial team at ThriveGlobal asked their readers for advice about maintaining such relationships. Here are the strategies they came up with:
Find your mutual joy
Mutual respect comes when you understand that our opinions grow from our environment and experiences. Not everyone’s experiences match our own. If we remember that and ask them why they believe what they do, we set ourselves up for empathy and understanding. If that fails, agree to disagree and focus on areas of your lives that bring mutual joy.
Don’t take it personally
Too often, people interpret a different opinion as an attack, when it has nothing to do with who they are as a person. When you engage with someone passionate about an issue, listen to what they have to say and try to understand the belief from their perspective, not your own.
Respectfully challenge views
Sometimes it’s a good thing to challenge a perspective that can’t be backed up with facts, but make sure it’s the views that you challenge—and not the person.
Seek to understand, not to convince
The inability to remain friends with others of differing opinions is a dangerous trend affecting the United States right now. Having respectful and productive conversations about politics and other touchy subjects is the only way to foster democratic discourse, see blind spots, and move forward. Don’t approach conversations with the intent of convincing the other. Instead, simply try to learn and understand. There can be multiple truths in the room.
Avoid the “me versus them” mentality
Talking politics is usually a way to discuss the core values that define us. So, when others espouse a different set of values, we feel less secure and emotionally safe. In turn, we feel the need to defend our values, part of which becomes attacking those of the other person.
Political conversations are ostensibly about what’s best for the country, its people, and our common welfare. If kept in that frame, we can all find policies that have both benefited and harmed us, regardless of where we fall on the political spectrum. Recognizing and fighting our tendency to fall into defense mode can help us have constructive conversations without jeopardizing relationships.