When Friendship and Politics Don’t Mix

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Picture this: it’s Friday night and you’re at your BFF’s house before the football game. BFF’s parents are there too, and you’re all having a great time and sharing some laughs. Then one of BFF’s parents says something that seems off to you—and it’s political. Maybe they can’t stand Obama and you love him. Maybe they oppose gay marriage. Or support it. Whatever the issue—you don’t share the belief.  No worries: you’re sure your BFF doesn’t feel the same way. UNTIL…

You tentatively check with BFF to see if her views on Obama/gay marriage/the recent shutdown are the same as her parents. And…they are. Not only that, but BFF gets a little ticked when you bring it up. Tensions rise. Awkward moments are rare with BFF, but this is a big one.

You’re baffled and bummed. How could your BFF harbor such different politics? I mean, you both feel the same way about calculus, clothing trends, bullying and the demise of KPattz. So how could you be so at odds when it comes to politics? And how could your BFF become so testy with you? How do you handle it when politics creep into conversation again?

Does the above scenario ring a bell? It’s not uncommon for friends to share different political views, but that doesn’t make it any easier to face. So how do you manage it? You don’t want to ditch your friend over an ideological spat, but at the same time, politics can get really personal. Here are a few tips and options for keeping things civil:

1) Learn to listen. Though listening to beliefs that don’t jive with yours can feel like nails on chalkboard, it shows your BFF consideration and respect to really listen to her views, where they come from and how they developed. You don’t have to agree, but showing the courtesy to listen demonstrates that you care about your BFF’s opinions, even when it’s hard. And above all, don’t impose your own views when it’s time to listen.

2) Steer clear of cheap shots. Once you’re aware of the sticking points, be careful not to throw out political one-liners that might insult your friend. This only deepens any wounds and shows you don’t value her point of view.

3) Talk about it. Agree to disagree. If the political difference is already out there, it can be helpful to just call it out and acknowledge it. This way, you can each put your cards on the table (respectfully, of course), and agree to disagree.

4) Be open to new ways of thinking. Go one step beyond just listening, and actually consider that your friend might have a point. Research her end of the debate, check facts and be your own devil’s advocate. Even if you don’t change your viewpoint, you’ll have a better understanding of where she’s coming from, which can make you more patient when political conversations arise. Then offer to show her some of your own legwork and suggest she do the same for your end!

5) Remember you’re evolving. At this point in life, you and your friends are still figuring things out. How you feel about abortion or immigration today might change in a year. The same is true of your friend. So cut each other some slack.

6) Avoidance. Keeping it real…there’s always the option to simply avoid political discussions. As long as it doesn’t feel like an elephant in the room, you can simply choose to talk politics with other friends who share your views. Though it may not be ideal, many a friendship has survived this way. In other words, put your friendship first.

For more tips, check out this article from Teen Vogue.

Need an example of what NOT to do? Next time you’re at dinner with your significant other’s parents, probably don’t emulate Owen Wilson in this clip from Midnight in Paris.

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