How to Discuss Politics Without Losing Friends or Family

Research finds that half of Americans stopped talking politics with someone.

Posted Oct 30, 2020

Photo by Antenna on Unsplash
Source: Photo by Antenna on Unsplash

There probably isn't a more polarizing topic than politics, especially during an election year. It doesn't matter who wins—almost half of the country will be angry their candidate didn't become president or remain in office.

The divisiveness on social media is deafening. However, using a keypad is much different than facing people at a dinner table. Anyone can post snarky memes or sarcastic content on social platforms. Leave rude or even malicious comments on articles and even troll those who don't have their same beliefs. The wild web gives some people a sense of freedom of their actions without consequences.

Living face-to-face

This has been an extremely challenging year. Not only has there been a heated election, but COVID-19 has everyone living a new normal. The unraveling of friendships due to the differences in how people are reacting to the pandemic has been overwhelming. 

Now many are rethinking their holiday gatherings, but they also have to consider the conversations that are likely to take place.

According to PEW Research, almost half (45 percent) of Americans have stopped talking politics to someone because of something they said online or in person.  

Can we discuss politics without sacrificing friendship?

It likely depends on the person, but hopefully in most cases — yes

A conversation is an exchange of thoughts, ideas, and opinions. If you know that your friend has opposite political views, you should be prepared for their viewpoint.

These are times we have to challenge ourselves to be uncomfortable and put our friendship over politics. The fact is, in many situations, your friend or family member is the person that is there for you when you're having a bad day, battling with your kids or maybe going through a divorce

Try to call your congressperson and vent to them about your boss or partner? Give your commissioner a call about your landscaping problem? You likely will never hear back from them — except for a generic email saying they have received your note and it will be read.

Your friend is much more valuable than any candidate, politician or election year. Find a way to agree to disagree. Understand that as much as you attempt to have them see things your way, you will likely never change their mind — same as they are probably not going to change your mind. 

3 Ways to navigate political conversations

  1. Become self-aware of your body language and tone. When you are talking to your friends, don't shrug your shoulders, roll your eyes, or make snarky comments. Be engaged and interested. If we all start listening to each other, rather than raising voices or arguing, it's less likely friendships will be crumbling. No one wins when tempers flare and feelings get hurt. Remember, silence is golden.
  2. Limit your time online. According to research, adults can spend up to 11 hours a day interacting on social media. There is nothing wrong with using the unfollow or mute feature on a friend that tends to overshare political updates that you don't agree with or you aren't interested in. They don't receive notifications that you have done this and your newsfeed will be less stressful for you. By budgeting your time online, you will find the places that keep you well-informed on the topics that most interest you.
  3. Character counts. You can't control how other people behave, but you can control how you respond to them (and how you behave). Never forget how you react is a reflection of your character both online and offline. It's one thing to be passionate about your beliefs and politics, it's another when it crosses the line into cruelty and harm.

It's time to have mutual respect for each other no matter what political affiliation we are, and choose compassion over conflict.