Decision 2020

How to Talk Politics and Keep the Peace When Your Friends and Family Have Opposing Views

NBC Universal, Inc.

The future of the nation, how it is run, and who leads it: The entire nation is on edge at the moment. Opinions are strong, emotions are high, passions run deep.

So, how do you talk politics with friends and family with opposing views and still keep the peace?

The authors of "I Think You're Wrong (But I'm Listening)" tell Mom2Mom's Maria Sansone the key is to remember that the stakes don't have to be sky-high in every conversation. We've got a template for talking politics with friends and loved ones.

"I think one of the most important guidelines that we try to convey to people is to not make the stakes of every conversation so high," says co-author Sarah Stewart Holland.

She says our expectations are too high in most conversations. We often think we are going to solve issues we can't or persuade the other person over to our way of thinking, which typically won't happen.

When it doesn't people can often resort to bullying behavior or cutting friends out of their lives because they are so emotional.

"What we say is if we can shift our focus from the conversations themselves and feeling like we need to fix it all in this one conversation to the connection we feel with that other person to make it about our relationship with them" it makes the conversation easier, Stewart Holland says.

"It also drastically increases our ability to influence those people. When we go in with the intention of changing them, we are likely to harden their position. When we go in with the intention of influencing them over time, that can happen and they can influence us as well and we can have an exchange of ideas," says co-author Beth Silvers.

She adds, "It's what we all say we want, we just don't often behave like that's what we want."

It is easier to do that if you're candidate wins but what if your candidate loses?

Stewart Holland says, "If we're broken-hearted by results or if we're just broken-hearted by the way that the people that we love are responding is to zoom out and not make it about this election."

For example, she suggests zooming out to bigger picture issues from the election.

You could bring up the positive aspect of historic voter turnout. Or, you could ask a friend about what they think the issues in our voter system are that can be improved. Keep it 'big picture.'

Bringing up values can be a 'connecting' conversation, too, as opposed to a candidate-on-candidate battle --- especially now that voting is over.

Two things that have helped Silvers when talking to loved ones with differing views is to say, "What do you think I'm missing? What would you tell me that I'm not seeing that you see here that you think would be comforting to me right now?"

The second important thing, Silvers says, is to know how to end the conversation gracefully. She says to thank the other person for their views.

Stewart Holland agrees that exit strategy is crucial. She says, "One of my least favorite phrases is 'We just have to agree to disagree' because what that sounds like to me is, 'We're not talking'."

She suggests saying, "We're not going to solve this today, but we'll talk about it again because it's important."

Contact Us