Monday, April 18, 2016


I was recently asked to write a blog regarding politics.  Specifically, how to handle extreme differences in political views within families and also with friends.  From a  psychological perspective, politics appears to be an extension of how people perceive their lives and who they think will best help them either keep what they have or improve their lot in life.  When listening to people’s views, it is important to try and understand what they are concerned about and how that concern is being expressed.  Listening to someone does not mean you have to agree and the politics of the day is simply not worth damaging a relationship.  If you and the other person are just not able to remain calm when discussing politics or current events and governmental policies, agree to not discuss the subject. 

If you find yourself feeling angry and anxious when listening to people discuss politics, especially the current presidential election, remove yourself from the situation.  You might argue back that you want to know what the opposing side has to say and I agree it is important to know what all candidates have to say, but it is not worth agitating yourself or losing relationships.  Someone recently told me that they lost respect for some friends and family members because of their choices.  While you may not understand where the other person is coming from, it is wonderful that we live in a time and in a country where we are all allowed to have our own opinions and voice them, without fear of retaliation.  Rejoice in that process.  We are so fortunate to live in this time and this country.

In terms of social media, remember to play nice.  Address the issues, not the person or their personality traits or looks.  Someone you care about is reading what you are putting on social media, and a hostile approach may harm a relationship you do not wish to harm.  You are certainly within your rights to make comments, but be elegant.  If you see that someone has posted something you feel is inappropriate, you can always privately message them or talk to them about how you feel.  While you may not get the response you want, at least you will have said what you feel you need to say.  There is a difference between an informative post and one that is just hateful.  For example, comparing someone to Hitler is not informative.  If you feel you just can’t get anywhere with the other person, think about deleting their post, making a comment about sticking to the issues, or rethink your relationship with that person.  In terms of jokes and/or funny memes, if they are offensive, don’t post.  Be respectful of others.

            Someone else brought up in therapy that they felt like a family member was putting pressure on them to change their mind.  In a soft, but firm and even tone, let the family member know that you respect their right to their opinions and you want the same respect back from them. In other words, set a boundary with others.  People have been disagreeing about leadership since there have been people and groups and societies.  As long as you are not in a situation where basic human rights are being violated, let it go. 

Talk to people with similar views or talk to people with different views that are respectful of your views.  Remember, when this election is over, we will be moving on to something else.  That being said, if you are interacting with people who continue to yell and complain and try and change your mind about what you think, look and see if they try and do this to you about other topics.  Maybe it is the relationship in general you need to examine.  If their behavior only involves politics, agree to keep that topic off the table.  If they keep bringing up politics in a way that makes you uncomfortable, upset, angry or resentful, tell them that you would rather not discuss politics and change the subject.  You do not have to discuss a topic that you do not want to discuss.  
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