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Commentary: Navigating political differences with family and friends

By Kristin Moorehead-Malley, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

With what could be the most aggressive, divisive political climate in history at the forefront of daily life and the election just days away, you may find yourself conflicted with friends or family because of political differences.

From coronavirus, the economy, healthcare and climate change, so many issues are being debated in person and online.

Maneuvering through it all is difficult while keeping up your mental health. Communication strategies can help keep your friends (should you choose to do so) and family relationships respectful.

First, keep in mind the 2020 political climate is unlike anything we have ever experienced. Issues are being polarized and the voting procedures are different making those already on the edge more agitated and defensive.

Also, realize this dark mood is not going to last forever. It may not end in November, but someday political discussions will be less tense and divided.

Keeping this in mind will allow you to think more clearly and lessen the belief that you’ll never be able to get along with specific people. It might be just a matter of weeks before you can go back to talking about the things that brought you together in the first place.

Now is also a good time to determine the people you most value in your life.  Perhaps, the person that you have the most political differences with is not as important to you as you think.  Ask yourself if this person brought you joy and emotional support before COVID and the election. Did you sincerely care for them? If not, now might be a good time to step away and move closer to those who do bring you joy. It’s ok to let go and end a friendship.

For family and those you do find dear, there are a few more things to keep in mind. Everyone has different skills and history. Political information comes to us in hundreds of different ways, including social media.  When having political conversations be mindful of where others receive their political information.

This combined with understanding how a person was raised, and their skillset will help you understand how they interpret political information and form an opinion.  Active social media users, especially the older generation, might not understand the tactics that go on behind their feed.

Social media feeds, even posts from a circle of friends are refined and fed to users in very sophisticated ways to sway the user.  Be understanding.

As the votes get counted, the majority will accept the outcome of the election. However, as election results are announced some extremist events are expected.  To maintain your mental health don’t provoke or invoke in further political conversation.

Instead, be empathic and listen to others’ concerns.  For family or friends, know their intention is not malicious and it’s likely coming from a place of uncertainty about the future.  Reassure them that our Country will be okay and they can count on your support.

Finding a negotiated balance will always create a win-win where both sides feel safe to voice concerns while still respecting each other.

Kristin Moorehead-Malley is the founder and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist at S.A.G.E. Therapy Center.  For more info call 760-703-2188 or visit