Unpopular opinion: Our relationships are more important than who we are voting for in November.
Your co-workers, the people at church, your kid’s teacher, the newlyweds who live two doors down from you? You have the power to make their lives immensely enjoyable or frustrating and difficult. They can come alongside you as a community when life gets tough, or they can be a constant thorn in your side.
How those situations play out is largely dependent on the effort you’re willing to invest in those relationships – in good times and in bad.
You probably can’t change your friends’ opinions – just like they probably can’t change yours – but you can change how and when you engage with them.
If you value healthy relationships with your family, neighbors, and co-workers and want to preserve them no matter who wins in November, here are 5 ways election-proof your community.
Love Your Neighbor…
It’s really hard to hate someone up close and in-person. Off social media.
You know, where real life happens.
If you brought my family groceries or scrubbed our toilets when I was undergoing chemo infusions, I am indebted to you in a way that I will never be able to repay, and your political views cannot change that. If you sat with me this summer at the pool or on a patio debating the merits (or lack thereof) of various books, podcasts, masks orders, and school district decisions, I don’t care if we agree or not because I see that all of your reasons are actually rooted in unique life experience and point of view that’s different from mine. Not wrong. Different. And I appreciate learning from you.
Does your high school BFF you can’t agree with on anything know that you would drop everything to be there for them in a crisis? Do your neighbors with a yard full of signs for The Other Guy know that you will rush to aid their daughter if she falls off her bike in your driveway?
If they don’t, then you’ve got some work to do – offline.
…Then Steal Their Identity
OK, so maybe face-to-face discussion is too intense or frustrating for you. Or maybe you truly can’t hear what your PTO President or dog-sitter is saying because of their obnoxious delivery.
That doesn’t mean you can’t mentally hop into their shoes and walk around a bit. Someone whose life experience is identical to yours would make the the same choices you have. But what about everybody else? Which choices would you make in their circumstances?
Where did they grow up? It matters. What was their family structure like? It matters. Did the type of health insurance and care they received make their childhood easier or more difficult? It matters. Was their access to secondary education a given, or were there multiple barriers to cross and hoops to jump through? It matters. Do they (or their kids) have physical or mental health restrictions that you’ve never had to consider? It matters. Are their convictions rooted deeply in a cultural or religious framework that they try to honor? It matters.
I’m not saying it makes them “right”…but I’m saying it matters.
Listen…and Don’t Respond
Don’t listen to respond. Many times in lively debates and heated discussions we only give our opponent the floor so we can mop it with them when it’s our turn to speak! This is far from loving.
If you struggle with this – or if you find yourself always needing to get in the last word – try not responding at all.
Read their political Facebook rant, and then don’t comment. Keep scrolling.
Listen to why someone disagrees with your view, and then don’t try to change their mind. Thank them and say you’ve not considered their point before, and then move on. On the other hand, if you’re feeling brave or curious, ask them clarifying questions and let them continue talking. Sometimes all we want is to know that we are being heard.
Boomers, Millennials, and Gen XYZers all lack restraint – none of us are pillars of virtue when it comes to patience, kindness, and self-control. When you know someone is baiting you, don’t fall for it. This doesn’t mean you should never engage – just think before you do. Is it worth your time and energy? Maybe. Maybe not.
Read Articles & Books by People Who Disagree with You
Fake news aside, do ever take the time to read the articles your brother-in-law shares on Facebook? The candidate who defeated your favorite in the last election – did you listen to her autobiography? Do you know the real reasons why so many people chose to educate their kids in a different way than you educate yours during the pandemic?
Until you understand multiple sides of an argument, you may not fully understand why you believe what you believe. And as previously stated, it’s hard to hate up close.
Mute Them on Social Media
Some see it as a last resort – others see it as a preventative cure. I would be remiss professionally, as a social media consultant who sees it ALL on a daily basis, if I didn’t make sure you are aware of the following six social media features:
- You can “unfollow” someone on Facebook without “unfriending” them. If kicking them off your friends list seems extreme (or could have negative interpersonal consequences), just unfollow. You’ll stop seeing their posts in your feed.
- You can “snooze” a person on Facebook for 30 days. Their posts will disappear until after November 3rd has passed.
- You can “mute” people on Instagram (feed and stories) without “unfollowing” them. Same as the first point.
- You can select who sees your Facebook posts by choosing an audience (public, friends only, acquaintances).
- You can also create “close friends” on Instagram – when posting to Stories, you’ll know only your safe people are going to view them.
- You can “block” abusive & hateful users on both platforms – but make sure that you are doing this only cases that warrant it. Blocking your mom on IG is going to have major repercussions, so make sure you’ve thought about the fallout before you go through with it.
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