Okay, this is a tough one.
It’s tough because I am preaching to the choir!
Politics and friendships can be hard, People.
You know it. I know it.
We are all so very passionate, and too often, we are waaay too sure of our opinions! I’m guilty too! I get it from my Dad. Thanks, Dad!
[However familial, my political rants are not my shining moments. So, to anyone whom I have degraded or shamed with a political proclamation or an arrogant stance, I am truly sorry. I also apologize if I do it again.]
I’m still learning. But trust me, I am way better than I use to be. (My friends will recall my Ron Paul phase of 2012)
Good healthy friendships are changing me!
I have been blessed with a handful that have taught me to discuss rather than debate. Competitive and cajoling conversations were my first language. Along the way, I have learned from good people how to talk about the hard stuff of public policy and social contracts. Friendship changes everything!
Here are eight things I’ve learned to practice when having a political opinion and friends too:
#1- Be curious! When someone offers a different opinion, ask questions. Seek to understand. Ask how they came to their conclusion. Ask about their resources. Then read, watch, and consider. A desire to learn rather than correct leads to discovery. At the very least, we will learn something new about the person and why particular issues matter so much to them. Let’s check our egos and make learning, not winning the goal.
#2- Ask For Permission! Not everyone who lets a political statement slip wants to engage in a knock down drag-out debate. Sometimes folks are just venting, or it may have just been a weak moment. A statement does not provide permission to the masses for a political dog pile. Ask permission and offer to discuss privately.
#3- Be Respectful! We are worthy human beings, and most of us have come to certain conclusions thoughtfully after careful consideration. Let’s treat each other as equals. No one needs to be personally attacked for holding a different view. No name calling or degrading/shaming language. Our political opinions do not determine our value.
#4- Be Face to Face! So much can be lost in translation when communicating by social media, email, or text. Hearing an actual voice and seeing each other’s face will help to understand each other.
#5- STOP POSTING MEMES! Unless you are a comedian(Crazy Uncle Nate, Carry On!), memes are childish and unproductive. We need healthy conversations, not slams tossed around like Yo Mama jokes. If your goal is to shame, you aren’t helping and it is adolescent. Just stop.
#6- Be Humble! Are we subject matter experts? Probably not. So, let’s admit that we could possibly be wrong, and we simply see things a certain way At-This-Time. This is not only kindness to others it also kindness to ourselves. Humility gives us room to grow. We all have more to learn.
#7- Be Aware! Let’s consider our audience. It is not always easy to know who is listening or what their stories are, but try. 1 in every 6 women have suffered sexual assault. So, keep your “locker-room” talk defense to yourself. There really is no defense. If discussing a pro-war foreign policy, maybe keep in mind if someone within ear shot has lost a friend or family member to war or is suffering from PTSD. And for all that is good and holy, when so arrogantly condemning abortion consider the pain you may be causing someone who made a regretful decision long ago. Three decades later, a friend of mine grieves deeply every year on the would-be birthday. If you are pro-life, consider hers. Shame takes lives too!
#8- Be Reassuring and Appreciative! We belong to each other. Always, always, always be clear that we care for one another even when we disagree. If a hard talk has been had, do something to show gratitude for each other’s time and energy. Send a card or simply say thanks. If you cannot follow up with a kind gesture, do not engage! People do not exist to be political punching bags.
Basically, let’s all grow up.
We can talk about the hard stuff.
We are all adults here.
In fact, we NEED to talk about the hard stuff.
We also need to become champion listeners! Our country and the world needs us to get our stuff together. We can do this, Friends! We can do this like grown-ups! We don’t need a politician with bad hair or a bad pant suit to make America great. We need each other.
This is a two-part series. So, I want to hear from you! Your voice matters.
How do you participate in the political process and maintain friendships? I want to add your thoughts into the second part!