As the 2020 U.S. presidential election swiftly approaches, politics are coming into the spotlight more and more every day. One can find a political agenda around every corner and at every moment. This charged atmosphere has only furthered opposition between opposing parties. As politics attempt to pull the U.S. in two pieces, one thing they should not tear apart are our friendships and relationships. While opposing political views are often a source of strife among peers, making an effort to respect and value each other is essential to maintaining peace and unity during this time.
Separating someone from their politics is admittedly a hard thing to do. It is easy to place all the values and beliefs of a generalized political party upon an individual, but this is where a major mistake is made. A person is not their political affiliation. Viewing and treating them as such may lead to the loss of a friendship.
According to F. Diane Barth of Psychology Today, respectful and open-minded conversation with friends of opposing beliefs can be beneficial and eye-opening for both individuals. Acknowledging first and foremost the shared values between friends helps to mediate political discourse and make it more productive than harmful. An environment which prioritizes understanding and mutual respect of persons helps maintain friendships and alleviate much of the stress that accompanies political banter.
Being in a conversation fueled by disagreement or held with peers who are opposite in their opinions is undoubtedly uncomfortable. It is natural to want to distance ourselves from environments like this. This is why most people report having few to no friends with different political views.
As reported by Ryan Struyk from CNN, only 14% of Republicans and 9% of Democrats claim to have many friends who do not share their political views.
Our comfort zone tends to keep us surrounded by like-minded people, but only associating with individuals like ourselves leaves little opportunity for growth and limits perspective. Harsh divides, like we find in today's political climate, are what cultivate an environment of hostility. Sometimes, stepping out of comfort zones and taking the perspective of others makes us remember everyone has value, regardless of their political affiliation.
The setting our political environment has created for discussion is not a peaceful one. All around, there is constant arguing and turmoil between and even among party members. For friends with opposing viewpoints, this makes politics a difficult topic to approach. This is why Stephen Antczak of Forbes reports many individuals with opposing beliefs maintain their friendship by simply not approaching the subject of politics. While this option may work, it appears to be a way of avoiding the problem rather than finding a solution.
Though seemingly forgotten today, people with different opinions can address and discuss their differences without coming to blows. Everyone in some shape or form has different beliefs and convictions from the next person, no matter how similar they may be. The ability to get along with others is already essential to making it in life; politics should be no exception.
In this time of uncertainty and unrest, there is little which can truly be counted on. As much as we would love for our own political party to solve all our issues, at the end of the day, the people and relationships surrounding us are the ones who will really have our backs. As the country is divided, uniting with one another has become more important than ever, regardless of political beliefs. Learning from, growing with and seeking to understand others is more meaningful than a vote on a slip of paper.
Politics are important and relevant to every citizen, but ultimately, they are not your friend. The people we share our lives with are the ones who were with us before the election and the ones who will remain with us afterwards. A true friend is worth keeping, regardless of politics.