I Love You But I Hate Your Politics
Do you know someone who doesn't support the same political party as you do, but you love them? Someone who cares about a certain bill or state proposition and you just can’t stand it, but again, you love them? Of course you do, we all do. Politics are integrated in many important aspects of our lives: religion and spirituality, economic decisions, employment, education, television, radio, social media, and the list goes on.
It's almost expected that political party chatter will be around us because it's both advertised and intertwined with most, if not all, of what I’ve previously listed. I really cannot name a day where I don’t hear something about politics in the news now. But what do I do with it? I could keep having the same conversations where I pretend to hear what others say, and would rather sway them to think like me. I could also continue having circular arguments until I’m blue in the face because again, I refuse to understand their position. Or, I could try something else that’s less frustrating in the long run.
Being told, “You’re right about that,” is a pretty good feeling when you’re in the front-lines of a healthy debate with a loved one about what’s going on in the political arena. What’s not so good is feeling unheard during discussion of (insert important topic here). I find it more common hearing argumentation rather than understanding in the political sphere, and if you’re like me (not a politician), it’s fascinating how involved we can get because conversations as such spark up fiery passion. And it makes complete sense because what we have interest in is also important to us, usually.
Perhaps you don’t plan on agreeing with your friend, family member or spouse about their point of view; however, you might also be in the position of not wanting to lose that relationship, too. There seems to be plenty at stake. So, now what?
Earlier, I mentioned the importance of being heard. I want you to think about a time in your life where you felt completely misunderstood and unheard. Frustrating, yes? Hurts, right? Well, political conversations about anything could leave emotional wounds and sour feelings once it’s over, but it doesn’t always have to be like way.
There is a way to navigate through this seemingly dangerous territory, and without giving up your political stance, morals and values. Also, you may find it easier keeping your loved ones around much longer than expected, and vice versa. You can make your cake and definitely eat it too.
Here are a few things that could be helpful in closing the gap between yourself and those who do not agree with your political status, ideas and beliefs.
1) There's more to your day
More often than not I come across political arguments from all kinds of places: school, work and literally anywhere else in public. But nothing is more shocking than what social media can give us. This generation, as in those who are alive and breathing today, has the ability to ask life’s many questions and are able to get billions of answers within seconds because of the internet and other mediums full of information—something the human brain simply cannot keep up with.
Because tabloids, advertisement and other ways of getting your attention are right there in your face, it can be difficult to change the terrain you travel through. However, there are some practical things you can do to help with this, which I will mention later on. But just for a moment, I want you to think about what your day would look like without political argumentation. A day without focusing on newspaper headlines or internet articles. A day without jumping into a debate whether it’s on or offline. Heck, I want you to try and think about what your day would be without having a single thought of your political adversary. So, what’s left?
Remember, there’s more to your day than what media portrays.
2) There's more to this person
It's interesting the conversations we have with friends, family, spouses or even strangers about politics. I'm sure you can think of that one person you care about so much yet there are times you really get into it about policy where it seems like a lose-lose situation. It’s completely normal. Sure, during a political feud with a friend or a foe, it’s easy to forget the other aspects of the human that stands before you. Perhaps you think, “Well, since they follow (insert politician/belief/bill here), they’d have to be a complete idiot. Who would think or want such a thing? I’m sure their other ideas are just as idiotic, pathetic and immoral.”
It makes total sense to encapsulate the entirety of a person as an “idiot” or “ill-informed” when we are flustered and passionate with what we want them to understand about our own thoughts. It’s like passion takes over our perception of the individual in front of us that we might forget the rest of their story. In other words, there is probably more to this person than the argument you’ve just had with them. And I wonder how many missed opportunities of friendship, love and community we ruin because we’ve decided to categorize someone that doesn’t follow the same political mindset as we do.
Try and challenge the idea that a person’s character is determined merely by their political stance, or because of a single debate. Rather, see that there might be more to this person. How? Stay curious and grab hold of humility because we surely don’t know every detail for every person we meet. It’s tough, yes, but if the person is worth it, then perhaps the action of grace could be useful.
3) There's more to you
Who were you before politics entered your life? Who were you before you were aware there were political differences around you? Did you find yourself doing creative things like art, music or dancing? Were you taking up a sport or a class to extend your knowledge? Chances are, just like there’s more to other people, there’s more to you than your own politics, perhaps. How nice of a feeling would it be for your political enemy (e.g., loved one) were to understand there is more to you than politics alone? I’d say it’s a great feeling not to be pigeonholed.
What did you talk about before getting more into politics? Where was your interest then? Would you still find interest in what you thought about before? I’m sure there were/ are other subjects you’re still interested in that don’t end with frustration or a divide in relationships. And no, I’m not asking you to replace your morals, values, or beliefs by the way. What I am suggesting is to notice who you were before diving into passionate talks about what revolves around in the news.
It’s such a nice feeling to not be categorized as (insert hurtful words here) just because you believe in a certain someone or a specific policy. This is one aspect of you, and I’m sure you would appreciate if others notice other aspects of you, too. Humans are just too complex to be figured out in a snapshot. Furthermore, I hope you would want to take the same responsible route and acknowledge that others will differ from you in a variety of ways.
Give this a shot
I've created a shortlist of ideas that were helpful for me during my own process of internally separating politics from the actual human that stands before me. Maybe it could be useful to you, too. Or, maybe not. But, here’s to attempted growth.
Remove any news apps from your phone for a week or two. See how you feel afterwards.
Cut social media usage in half. For example, if your usage is about 3 hours a day, try 1.5 hours. Going cold turkey was the best thing for me.
Start or continue a favorite hobby such as reading, journaling, painting, working out, etc.
Practice listening. I’m serious, you would be surprised how often we want to hear ourselves speak, even in our own heads. Really listen and try to understand.
Tell yourself this often while discussing political issues: “I really want to understand where you’re coming from.” Even in the most frustrating moments, stay curious.
Keep your phone in your pocket. I say this as it’s helpful in immersing yourself back into your present world, without electronic media or apps.
Set boundaries within your intimate relationship(s). For example, perhaps there are some things you and your spouse, family member or friend have decided to “keep off the table” because you both know it’s not healthy to jump into circular argumentation with no end solution. This is not to say minds can’t change, but to say that you both have decided that your relationship is more important than a certain policy in that moment of time.
Last words. I get it. Why listen to others when I’ve already made up my mind on who I vote for, why I support this bill or policy and other stuff I’m passionate about? Answer: You might have to work with this person. You might be best friends with this person. You might be family to this person. You might even be married to this person. Essentially, you probably love this person and want to be around them for so many more reasons than merely politics. So, perhaps being heard and understood has more promise to maintain any type of relationship than trying to prove how much you’re right and how much they’re wrong.
Give it some time. Give it some thought, and perhaps action. You’ll find your balance.