Political Conversations with Family and Friends

Friends, it’s November 5, 2018, and you know what that means—the midterm election cycle is almost over! As much as I value the right to vote and take part in shaping the present and future of this country, I am also acutely aware of the social and emotional tension surrounding elections. And that tense climate affects us all.

As a therapist-coach, I have often heard people’s woes and worries about not just voting, but how to talk about their political decisions and values with people who disagree with them. And how much more difficult is it when that person is someone you care about deeply? Perhaps this New York Times video When Your Loved Ones Voted the Other Way rings a bell. This conversation has been key on a national level since 2015 when the last presidential race went sour, but I find that this issue resurfaces with every holiday season. You know you’ll be seeing that uncle who sees the world differently than you do. You’re sure to run into X at the company holiday party. And what to say during your weekly phone call to [someone] who doesn’t vote at all? Maybe you didn’t vote and you’re not sure how to explain why.

Solutions

For some, the solution to the problem is simply to avoid the unease. Whether you cut the political conversation short before it gets heated, or whether you say at the beginning, “let’s just avoid the topic altogether,” you find a way to steer clear of disagreement and stick to the topics that have always brought joy: kids, school, food, vacations, the weather, and so on. And it’s okay to do that!

Some of you may be looking to build your skill set for talking politics with those who you don’t see eye to eye with. I think this TED talk is a really inspiring conversation about how two friends have chosen their friendship over their differences: How Our Friendship Survives Our Opposing Politics. With family, sometimes our familiarity is the first problem to discussing opposing viewpoints; we can forget to allow our loved ones to change their minds, or we forget to listen to their ideas. For more on this, you might read How to Talk About Politics with Your Family.

What I think is important to remember is that many of our interactions with people we love are habits. When together, it’s easy to fall back into our patterns of avoidance, disagreement or debate. To change your patterns, start with awareness. Once you are aware of your habits with different people, you can backtrack to to notice what triggered it. Sometimes the simple act of awareness allows up the space to choose a different path.

Support

Voting, politics, civic engagement and democracy are all important, but so is your sense of calm, your sense of ease. If you’re still worried about how to talk to loved ones about your political values, or if the holidays are always a strained time in your family, then I invite you to join me on Friday, November 9th, noon-1pm PDT for a free talk about Navigating Relationship Challenges. I’ll share more practical tools and insights that I’ve gathered over my 20 years in therapy and coaching.

Lael