How to Keep Your Friends during a Presidential Election

How to Keep Your Friends during a Presidential Election

My goodness but we’re a polarized nation.

One glance at social media tells the tale of anger and hatred and lashing out at, well, anyone who doesn’t hold your same view. The vitriol amazes me.

But it’s not just social media, is it? Mention anything about politics these days, on just about any issue, and man, do the heated words escalate. In pretty much a nano-second.

I often stand back and think, how did that happen so fast?

Don’t you?

We can all pretty much tell a story of this in recent times. A good friend of mine, who holds quite different views from a very long-time friend, put up a post that caused said chum to un-friend her on Facebook.

Seriously, how does one even do that?

But we’ve all had similar experiences by this point, if we’ve said our opinions out loud.

I just posted what I thought was pretty innocuous about Simone Manuel’s Olympic wins, in the context of history in my lifetime, and man, did a guy come out blasting.

Emotions run deeply and divided in our world.

But that’s easier to deal with, no? When it’s not somebody close to you?

So how do you handle that and keep your friends, well, still your friends, during this time of heated emotion?

The good news is, it’s still up to each of us.

Not the politicians themselves (she types, with one finger tied behind her back :). Not the nastiness that comes out of their mouths. Not the media, which has been an easy whipping boy for a good bit.

Not even social media, which bears its own part in the shame of this.

We, ourselves, hold the keys to how we weather any storm—be it a hurricane or vitriol from someone close.

I learned this a long time ago, with my very father. Ah, yes, the closer the relationships, the easier buttons are to push.

But he and I couldn’t possibly have held more conflicting views. And yep, I spent much of my young adulthood arguing with him.

And then one day I realized—there was absolutely nothing I could say to change his mind. And all I was doing was wasting precious energy trying.

That was a revelation.

You’ve had that too, no? Where you kept thinking if you just expressed yourself more clearly, said it a different way, lay down in the street and set yourself on fire, then they would see you were right.

How did that work out?

Whomever merely held fast to his views anyway. And now thinking, of course, that you were bat-shit crazy to boot.

The thing is, we’re a heckuva lot better at spewing our beliefs than we are at listening, truly trying to understand another’s.

I mean, we came hard-fought to our opinions and know we’re right, no?

Over the years, I’ve learned 5 fail-safe ways of dealing with it. So let’s fire away

5 fail-safe way to keep a friendship during this election season.

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1. Listen.

First, no matter how repulsive I find another’s thoughts, I can always make sure he’s heard. I can ask questions. I can repeat back what I hear, to make sure I heard it right. No matter how many times I want to jump in and say, “That fact is actually inaccurate,” the point of this exercise is to make sure the other person feels heard.

Because in the end, that’s what most folks want anyway—to be heard. That’s where so much pain and anger and frustration come from—the feeling that nobody listens, nobody hears, nobody cares.

Now, you have to be prepared for the other person to then believe you think he’s right. That’s the ironic part. Because everybody, again, thinks that if you hear him out, you’ll see the light.

And he most likely won’t return the listening favor.

But that’s okay—for now. Because what you’ve just done is dampen his anger a bit, if only for the time.

Admittedly, in the heat of an argument, this is one of the most humanly difficult things to do.

It’s in your wheelhouse though, isn’t it? You yourself have been dead wrong before, no? If not, I’d love to meet you!

But the point being, in your wrong-headedness, someone gave you quarter, true?

2. Agree to disagree—even if you’re the only side doing that.

Second, absolutely none of us are going to agree 100% of the time. Not possible. Even those whose views are on the same planet as mine, well, we have nuances of differences. Of course, we don’t yell at each other about those!

I just had this happen with a good friend. We held different views of something that was happening in real time, and in which we both had a big stake. We both stated our views. Passionately bolstered those with facts.

And, disagreed.

We agreed to disagree. For the time. We can always revisit that down the road if need be.

Let me say this straight: we’re just never going to persuade another all the time—no matter how right we are! 

3. Work on your own anger, which has come up in response.

Third, the fact of the matter is that anger is buried in there (or not so buried!) or the flash point wouldn’t have arisen in you to begin with.

That old psychological truism exists: we judge in others what mirrors our own issues.

Ouch.

Hate when that happens!

But by turning the tide back to the person in the mirror, you can deal with what’s really bugging you. And I can promise—it’s not who’s running for president.

I’ve always loved the Dalai Lama’s response to the differences in religions, “Same path, different walking stick.”

Whenever I get truly angry with another’s views, I try and remember the spirit of that quote.

4. Ignore it.

Fourth, while this might not be so easy with someone very close to you, it’s real easy on social media:

Just scroll on by.

I haven’t gotten dragged into huge arguments there. Even on my own posts when someone decides to get horsey, I almost never respond. When that happens I harken back to my old horse-training days. If a colt is unruly, I’d let him fight himself.

Sure saves me a lot of energy. As in the case with my dad.

They guy with the rant about Simone on my FB page? I did respond. I told him I heard him. And that I felt differently.

And that’s the only response I’ll give.

When my friends post rants that I think are insane? I don’t read them. I just scroll on by . . .

Unless this is someone living in your home, it’s pretty easy to do.

I was having a conversation with a dear friend the other day, and she and I don’t agree on much, politically. She laughed about that, and I said, “I love having diverse friends. And it’s so easy to do with a friend, and nearly impossible with a spouse.”

The point being, when the difference of opinion isn’t in your face every minute of every day, it’s easy to live with.

Especially because my friend is wonderful in every other way! J

How will you get through this presidential season without blowing a gasket or losing a friend?


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5. Find common ground.

Finally, it’s always there. Always.

Buried maybe, but we’re all human, in the end. Everyone wants to make the world a better place, no matter how misguided his thoughts. I mean, even Hitler thought he was improving the world.

And your friend is no Hitler, right? Otherwise, why is he your friend? Even on FB!

We have months of this presidential-election season to go. We can survive it! I have faith in us.

And the other thing I do, well, pretty much always and pervasively, so it’s not its own number, is:

Vent to those of like mind. Ah, isn’t that manna from heaven after dealing with folks who aren’t? That diffuses all lingering negativity for me, causes me to exhale, and turn to face whatever else comes.

How will you get through this presidential season without blowing a gasket or losing a friend?


About the Author Susan Malone

Award-winning writer and editor Susan Mary Malone is the author of the novels, "I Just Came Here to Dance" and "By the Book," as well as four co-authored nonfiction books, including "What’s Wrong with My Family?" and many published short stories. Forty-plus Malone-edited books have now sold to traditional publishers.

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68 comments
Nancy says August 17, 2016

Couldn’t agree more. This political season is tough. I have friends and family alike who are passionate in their beliefs, and some completely over-the-top-ridiculously narrow minded. I am working on maintaining the strength to maintain a professional relationship with some.

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    Susan Malone says August 17, 2016

    Some are more challenging than others, Nancy! I find that as well. Just another opportunity for growth. Lol!

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Donna Verret says August 17, 2016

Yes! It is the most vile political race I have ever experienced, and I have weathered some tumultuous races. And while my first impulse, and certainly the easiest path, is to stay away from political discussions, I cannot. . . . . will not. I am trying to be selective about my “jumping in” spot, but I will continue to jump in. More than any I have experienced in my 62 years on this planet, this race requires that we stand UP. So I have dusted off my tie-dyed shirt, holey jeans, love beads, and sunglasses, and I am ready to rock and roll through battle again. I have invited friends to “unfriend me” if they choose. I have attempted to “temper my words,” but I will not stand down. “Hell No! I won’t go!. . . . . quietly.”

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    Susan Malone says August 17, 2016

    Good for you, Donna! Yep, this is one of those times we have to stand up for our beliefs (and I’d pay good money to see you in that get-up!). And since the pen IS mightier than the sword, you’re having a big impact. You go, girl!

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Jolina says August 17, 2016

Oh I know of people who can get so riled up in social media like that. I usually just ignore or stay away from those kinds of conversations but if it can’t be helped, you’re right, listening is an awesome skill to have. There are very few issues I get so worked up about but like our parents always say: if you don’t have anything kind to say, then best not to say anything!

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    Susan Malone says August 17, 2016

    My mom used to say that to me all the time, Jolina! And while I do fall off that wagon, I try to stay on 🙂

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Lori English says August 17, 2016

Susan,’
This is a great article and I loved the part about how people can push buttons if we allow them. In My practice , using skills to help other not to give away their buttons or what is a trigger for them. I ‘ve personally learned to agree to disagree is a lot easier than being right. I really enjoyed the article and the how you wrote it. Thank you and glad to connect !
Lori English

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    Susan Malone says August 17, 2016

    Isn’t that just the key, Lori? It’s all up to us to manage what pushes our buttons 🙂 Great to connect with you as well!

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Liz Mays says August 17, 2016

These are good points. It really does help to hear each others’ points of view.There’s always going to be non-partisan issues that people can come together to work on.

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    Susan Malone says August 17, 2016

    absolutely, Liz. I’m always amazed at how much people actually agree on things . . .

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Rachel Lavern says August 17, 2016

I’m very disciplined. If I know I’m right, no one can dissuade me. It is important to listen to differing opinions, of course.

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    Susan Malone says August 17, 2016

    Even when I disagree with another’s opinion, that almost always makes me think!

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Sabrina Quairoli says August 17, 2016

In college, my major was international business. A professor mentioned that we must never talk about “religion and politics in the workplace”. It generates a lot of personal feelings and they will most definitely take it personally if you disagree with them. I think this applies to today’s social media environment.

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Roz Evans says August 17, 2016

I have steered clear of political posts, even humorous ones. Once in a while I click like & hope no one notices. What I am walking away with from this post is that there are ways to communicate when we disagree. That is what arguments are about. I laughed when I read we think if we just say it ‘this way’ we will persuade them, but if I am unlikely to change my mind, are they?
The only positive am thinking about the current political situation is that many would really like a candidate do over.

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    Susan Malone says August 17, 2016

    I do the same, Roz. And my only positive thing about this political election season is that it’s going to be over soon!

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Michele says August 17, 2016

I have been agreeing to disagree for more years then I care to admit! And if (which is very rare) I post a blog which is clearly my opinion–I state right on there that I will not comment back-and I agree to disagree! It seems to work (so far)

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    Susan Malone says August 17, 2016

    I love that, Michele! What a great way to diffuse the situation up front 🙂

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Beverley Golden says August 17, 2016

Thanks for this post, Susan. As a Canadian, I’ve been watching with great curiosity what is happening in this election season there. I’ve had conversations with a few of my U.S. friends and when one of them explained why her husband and his friends think the Republican nominee would be good for the economy, I quickly changed the subject, saying I don’t agree with that in any way. It’s challenging to just listen and know that the other person might think you are ‘hearing’ them and that they’ve convinced you of their point of view. For me it would be important to listen and then say, “I do hear you, but I don’t have the same belief.”

In a coffee meeting today with a new friend, (he and I are very similar in our beliefs), he made a great point. We were talking about health and the medical profession and he said he’s learned to manoeuvre through tough conversations, by simply saying that the doctor’s perspective might be right, it just isn’t right for him. I really liked that. I spent a lot of years trying to prove the doctors were wrong about their prognosis for me. All I had to do was thank them and walk away and do what I was going to do anyways. Enjoyed this post very much!

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    Susan Malone says August 17, 2016

    Ohhh, Beverley–I love that! I’m going to adopt it: X’s position might be right, but it just isn’t right for me. Love it!

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Neely Moldovan says August 17, 2016

I cant wait till this election is over. So over it!

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Tamuria says August 17, 2016

Such great advice in this Susan, for election times and all the time as we deal with this crazy world and all the angry emotions people are spewing. Yes, I have friends who share the craziest things on social media and I do as you do, just keep scrolling.There was a time I had to try and convert everyone to my way of thinking. Thankfully, age has taken away my energy for this and I can now appreciate one of the best things about the world is we are all entitled to our opinion (even if it’s wrong, LOL). I think your first point is the most important. Just listen, people need to be heard. I already know what I believe, so by listening, instead of talking, I might just gain a new perspective.

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    Susan Malone says August 17, 2016

    Laughing about age taking away your energy for trying to convert! I know the feeling, Tamuria. And yep, everybody’s entitled to his own opinion, even if it’s wrong!

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Teresa Salhi says August 17, 2016

I love your approach and unfolding of this much needed topic of discussion. We are here together, we all need each other – like it or not. If not then why are we not here alone? Ha. And it is in our diversity that we have come together in unique ways to create exactly all that we have now – like it or not!

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    Susan Malone says August 18, 2016

    You made me think of all the Sci-Fi stories of someone left all alone on Earth, Teresa. And it’s never pretty! Great point–we are all here together, and we all need each other. Love it!

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Jacqui Odell says August 17, 2016

I honestly just don’t talk about it! I think that’s the safest way to do it.

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valmg @ Mom Knows It All says August 17, 2016

I get through any political season and discussions the same way I do religious discussions – I dont talk about them.

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Lisa Favre says August 18, 2016

I have witnessed a lot of my friends get in heated political debates with one another. I usually try to be the audience and / or moderator if things get out of hand. I try not to participate too much! My friends have incredibly strong opinions.

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    Susan Malone says August 18, 2016

    So it sounds as though you have very good listening skills, Lisa. Yeah for you being the moderator!

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MyCoolToyVids says August 18, 2016

It is pretty ridiculous at how angry everyone is getting and the true colors of humanity is showing during the Elections. I choose to live by the mantra of “praise what you love instead of bashing what you hate”… or “Just keep scrolling” is a great one too ha!

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    Susan Malone says August 18, 2016

    OH, I absolutely love that! “Praise what you love instead of bashing what you hate” is the key to life.

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Elizabeth O says August 18, 2016

I’ve tried to stay out of the fray by ignoring inflammatory posts and taking the high road. It’s election season in the USA so some of the salvos come with the territory. I just ignore it or if directed at me, l take it private and address it. This too shall pass…

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Audrey says August 18, 2016

Great perspective and oh so timely. I can’t believe how some people that I love think so differently about our presidential choices. Thanks!

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    Susan Malone says August 19, 2016

    I’m right there with you, Audrey! Sometimes I’m just like, whaaaaat . . .

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Jennifer Quisenberry says August 18, 2016

I agree. This year has really brought out the nasty. And it’s not just about the election. It feels like people have a license to troll anymore. I’ve lost a couple of friends who decided to attack me for caring about animal welfare. The art of respectful discourse is fading sadly.

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    Susan Malone says August 19, 2016

    Isn’t it weird how social media has given a pass for nastiness, Jennifer. I think it’s like that old anonymous-crowd effect, where individuals get the mob mentality and do and yell things one never would alone. Yes, respectful discourse has been the victim . . .

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Tiffany VanSickle says August 18, 2016

This is so spot on!!! It’s crazy how divided we have become as a nation. Sad really. Everyone is so quick to shoot the blame but no one wants to take any back.

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    Susan Malone says August 19, 2016

    It is crazy, Tiffany. And so true–people seem to want mercy for themselves, judgment for everyone else . . .

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Christy Soukhamneut says August 18, 2016

I think the first point is the most important, Listen. It shows respect. If people are truly your friends then you should respect them. When you close your mouth long enough to listen you just might learn something. You might find common ground. Your friends are not your enemies and you hope to keep them long after the election.

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    Susan Malone says August 19, 2016

    What a great point, Christy–if people are truly your friend then you should respect them. Otherwise, why are they your friends in the first place?

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Kristen Wilson says August 18, 2016

I think that this election, of all the ones that I can remember voting in (that is all of them since 18 mind you).. that this one is the most controversial. Now, I think the current president sucks and have seen no good come out of it… and how others do blows my mind… but this current race is full of name calling, slinging lies and extremes, for sure. I just ignore most posts because I WILL get heated. And I do represent my biz… with all kinds of clients, so best to zip it. lol

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    Susan Malone says August 19, 2016

    You bring up a great point, Kristen–as entrepreneurs on social media, we have to go at it a bit differently. I rarely post anything controversial on FB, but man, when I do! And often I didn’t see the post as controversial in the first place. Lol.

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Reba Linker says August 19, 2016

Hi Susan, This is such a terrific post. They say that each generation gets the leaders they deserve. Unfortunately, this fractured, acrimonious political scene is a fair reflection of its people. I believe, as you do, that charity towards others starts at home. Maybe when we the people become more tolerant towards each other, these types of political interactions will no longer be accepted.

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    Susan Malone says August 19, 2016

    I agree, Reba–no political scene arises in a vacuum. If not for a very strong underlying current of belief, no politician can galvanize a movement. Kinda scary to think of such hate buried deeply in our culture. And I agree with your prescription entirely–charity starts at home. That reminds me of the Alice Walker quote: “Teach yourself peace, pass it on.”

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Joyce Hansen says August 19, 2016

I especially like your tip about listening to the other person. Yes, it’s true they feel better if they are heard. I get through it by playing the role of the observer. I’m fascinated to hear what they say and why they believe what they are saying. Sometimes it defies rational thought and what you are really seeing and hearing is fear. Fear the world will change or fear the world is not changing enough to combat the threats they feel exist. Sometimes you learn a lot by saying nothing and just observing.

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    Susan Malone says August 19, 2016

    Great point, Joyce. Fear really does seem to be the root of so many opinions, doesn’t it. Now, if we can just address the underlying fear . . .

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Jennifer Corter says August 20, 2016

I defintiely don’t unfriend people because of their political opinions. I listen to them and hear them out as to why they think the way they do. Everyone is different.

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Joan M Harrington says August 20, 2016

What a great post Susan on how to deal with those that agree or disagree with you in regards to this presidential election 🙂

These 5 ways are spot on…..thank you for sharing! I feel that sometimes it is best to “ignore” those that do not agree with you…..a lot easier 😉

This year’s election has brought up so many heated arguments and heated discussions….best to not get into all of the drama, right?

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    Susan Malone says August 22, 2016

    I’m with you, Joan, because it’s all drama in the end 🙂 And nobody is going to change anybody else’s mind, so why spend the energy? I ignore a lot of it too 🙂

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Katarina Andersson says August 21, 2016

Nice article, Susan…and, yes,, to agree to disagree seems a good choice to me or just ignore it and discuss with people having your same point of view.:-))

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    Susan Malone says August 22, 2016

    Or, Katarina, perhaps we all just need to sit with a nice bottle of Italian wine and some olive oil 🙂

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Kimberly Fouche says August 21, 2016

The best way that I keep my friends during all of this is by not talking about politics. I hate them and refuse to discuss them so as to avoid the heated debates and shunning. Everyone has their opinion and while others like to yell theirs from the rooftops I prefer to keep mine quiet.

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Karen says August 21, 2016

To me it has to do with respect for others. We have lost our ability to respect others just because they are human beings, because they hold a position of authority (police officers), or even elderly. We need to figure out how to put respect back in to our lives. It starts with me.

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    Susan Malone says August 22, 2016

    Truer words, Karen. It all does come down to respect, no? Kinda goes back to the old idea of treating the janitor in the same manner as you do the CEO. It’s a mindset, no?

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Mindi says August 21, 2016

Great tips! I have seen quite a few friendships disintegrate this election season and it is a shame 🙁

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Jackie Harder says August 23, 2016

I ignore all the political crap (well, most of it; the funny stuff I might share) on Facebook. The upside of that: I can get through my news feed pretty quickly. I do draw the line at overt racism or sexism. Otherwise, I just roll my eyes and press on.

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Sharon M Hart says August 23, 2016

I wrote about this issue on my blog yesterday. I am dealing with the current political situation by “inner emigration.” Erik Larson wrote about this in his book “In the Garden of Beasts.”

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Andrew Cole says November 8, 2016

Excellent advice, especially for this year’s elections! I already experienced that … what I liked most about your article is that one should agree to disagree, for each has a right to voice his/her own opinion, but at the same time respect the opinion of others.

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