Dealing with Friends & Family with Different Political Views

This past year has been one of the most divisive in our country’s history. Never before has the political spectrum been so polarized – and with the added influence of social media platforms moving us even further away from each other – talking politics has become a minefield, especially for teens. 

Our adolescence is a time of growing, learning and discovering our identities, and part of that is the formation of our political and social views. As a teenager, you’re looking to establish yourself as an independent person, think for yourself, and make sense of the world around you. But what happens when some of the closest people in your life – your family and friends – passionately disagree with your viewpoints? Around the country, we’ve heard devastating stories of people losing their friends, families and loved ones over political differences. To avoid falling into the same fate, let’s take a look at ways to communicate with family and friends who think differently than you do.

Exercise Empathy

Sometimes, in the middle of a casual conversation, someone might say something you find offensive, or even disgusting. Many of us at this moment will be tempted to react, attacking them for having such a horrible opinion. Before you do though, consider where exactly they are coming from. We all experience life differently, and these experiences often shape our worldview. So ask them why they think that way, and actually listen. You may not agree with what they have to say, but at least you’ll gain insight into their life.

Ask Questions, Politely

Many of us took different routes to form our opinions. When somebody expresses a view or ideology that you disagree with, instead of distancing yourself from them, writing them off or attacking them, try digging deeper into the specifics of their opinion. You might find that they agree on fundamental issues that you do, just with different approaches. Or who knows, they might actually open your eyes to a completely different viewpoint. Whatever your course of action, make sure to proceed with respect and kindness.

Verbally Express Your Respect

Let’s say you find yourself in the midst of a deep-seeded political or social argument with a friend, peer or family member. You’re not quite sure how you got there, but you are there, and things are getting heated. A great technique is to step back from the fighting, and express to them, that this is just a difference of opinion, and that it won’t affect your respect, admiration or friendship. Reminding people of their value to you is a sympathetic and open approach that will keep you both grounded.

Open Up

One of the best ways to inspire an empathetic response from someone, is to allow yourself to be vulnerable in front of them. When explaining your point of view, don’t be afraid to talk about personal experiences that led you towards your way of thinking. You can share stories of others’ experiences, and talk about your feelings on the matter, which will help the discussion stay open and honest. When people get into political debates, they tend to shut down and focus on winning whatever issue is at hand. When you’re honest and generous with your emotions, people won’t feel threatened, and won’t need to lash out.

Agree to Disagree

Many times, after a respectful and open discussion has taken place, with educated and empathetic responses traded both ways – people will still not be able to find common ground. It’s important to recognize this moment, and accept that neither of you will concede your point or change sides. So if you both can agree to disagree, you can move on, and maybe avoid discussions like that going forward. 

At Tilly’s Life Center, we know that this year has brought so much frustration and hardship on today’s teens. That’s why our virtual social and emotional learning workshops are designed to help young people everywhere learn the skills they need to manage anxiety, deal with stress and lead a positive, successful life. To learn more, visit: