2016 is turning into an inescapable political firestorm, but it can be even more strenuous when someone close to you holds different political views. Maybe you’ve come home from a long day to work, only to end up arguing with your significant other over Donald Trump’s speech at the RNC. Or you might have spent last Thanksgiving debating the connection between racial profiling and police brutality with your conservative mother. No matter what your situation is, you’ve most likely found yourself stuck in at least one heated political conversation with someone you care about. And as we venture towards one of the most heated elections in recent history, you have to wonder: How can I keep my political beliefs from interfering in my relationships?
If you’re suddenly in the middle of a conversation that’s veering towards difficult territory, establish some common ground and hold onto it. There’s generally at least one or two points that can unite opposing sides. You and your partner may disagree on Democratic economic policies, but support an increase in LGBT rights. Or perhaps the one thing you and your family can agree on is helping veterans access mental health treatment. When in doubt, remembering unifying topics can often be a good way to close out an argument.
After the discussion is over and you have some free time, take a chance to research the opposing views. Not only will it give you all the information you need to support your own beliefs, but it will also give you an impartial view from the other side. It’s easy to generalize Bernie Sanders supporters from Fox News sound bites, but spending an afternoon looking into his platform and policies can open you up to a new line of thinking. Once you have all the facts, you’ll be able to carry on a well-rounded and fact-based conversation (as opposed to an opinion-based screaming match).
One of the hardest things to do while arguing for your beliefs is to not take anything personally. When someone disagrees with a matter you feel strongly about — even if they’re a parent or a longtime partner — it can feel as though your opinions are being attacked. If you find yourself getting too caught up in the argument, take a step back and remember that political views don’t dictate a person’s characteristics. And make it a point to reflect this line of thinking with your words: Instead of directing statements back to the person speaking (“Liberals always want everything to be free. How could you vote for them?”), emphasize the specific policies and lawmakers in your debate (“I don’t think that a Republican-run Senate would do much for the disenfranchised youths in America. Will Tim Kaine’s presence help or hinder Hillary’s campaign?”).
Politics are always a messy subject. They can make any conversation awkward and divide friendships — just look at Ivanka Trump and Chelsea Clinton. But keeping your loved ones separate from their beliefs can stop debates from turning into long-term problems later on. And at the end of the year, when the next President of the United States has been chosen, you’ll be glad you kept your personal life separate from your political one.