One election fallout is that we can end up falling out with friends and family over the result. This can be super hard to deal with.
Arguments and disagreements happen a lot with the people we love. Sometimes they are small and manageable but sometimes they are really big and scary. There are a lot of big election votey type things happening right now that can lead to falling out with families and friends: Trump, Brexit, austerity governments, Scottish Independence, Eurovision (Bulgaria wuz robbed).
We can’t just have relationships with people that we always agree with. It might make life easier if we surrounded ourselves with people who have the same views as us but also maybe a bit boring.
Lots of people manage to have really good relationships with people where they have huge differences of opinion about life, rights, religion, politics, the universe. But how?
The key is not what you say but how you say it. By talking about how we talk (meta-communication), agreeing some rules, showing compassion and doing a better job of listening we can all have relationships with people we disagree with. It’s often not the content of an argument that causes a fallout, but the pain and hurt we might inflict by how we argue.
Make Some Rules
Think of some disagreements you’ve had lately. What is it that really pisses you off? Is it when you feel talked down to? When they don’t listen to you? Being shouted at? When they feel like they just don’t want to believe you? Trying to make you look stupid? Bringing up something personal about you? When they don’t care about your facts? Playing devil’s advocate? When they don’t care about your emotions? When all they want is to just win the argument?
What really annoys you in an argument? What really annoys them?
Why not come up with your own list? Maybe use this list to start you off. Once you’ve got a list you can then be more able to clearly say “look when you do __________ when we have an argument I feel ___________” You could also share this list with someone that you get into arguments with – but it’s only fair that you ask them to do the same. Either they need to come up with their own list and you see what you can agree to or you negotiate a single list.
As well as talking about what might piss you off in an argument you could also talk about what you really value. Maybe you could occasionally talk about what you agree on. Or you might appreciate a bit of humour now and again. Or you might want to have occasional time outs.
Think about what it is that you might do in an argument that might really piss other people off? Do you think any of the above might apply to you? Do you fight dirty? Might you deliberately or not deliberately annoy another person?
They Are Probably Hurting Too
How do you feel when you’re having an argument with someone you love about politics? It can be really hard having a disagreement about something that you feel so strongly about with someone you feel strongly about. They are probably feeling this too. If you can remember this then it may help you to play nice – not to just agree with them to keep the peace but to make your arguments in a fair, reasonable and kind way. If they are saying things that you are violently disagreeing with, this can be very hard to remember, but do try.
Take It Off Social Media
I looooooove getting into arguments on facebook and twitter [/sarcasm]. Thing is with arguing on social media, everyone can see what you’re saying. Even if you delete some awful thing you’ve said everyone will remember it because: DRAMA. If you’re arguing with friends or family online you can be doing a lot of harm to your relationship offline. It can feel embarrassing, humiliating and it can feel like bullying to be doing this in public. So I would consider taking it off facebook.
Be careful with email/messenger
When things are written down it is harder for them to be forgotten about. It can feel more permanent and harder to deal with. Also you might have thought about what you want to say for a few minutes or hours, or even days, but it might come out of the blue to the other person.
So although sometimes I think communication by typing is a good idea – you can think about exactly what it is you want to say and be super clear – I think you need to be really careful about how you go about doing it and try to find ways of preparing the other person for the message. E.G. you could send a text saying something ‘look I’m going to send you an email about ______ but please don’t rush to send a response. I’ve been thinking about this for a while so please take time to think about it <3.’
Try and talk in person
If you’re just reading what someone is saying it’s really hard to understand how they are feeling and how what you might be saying back can be making them feel. It’s also really easy to assume that the other person is deliberately trying to hurt you when you’re looking at a screen. So consider whether you can find ways to make it more personal. Perhaps try to schedule a phone call or a hangout or an actual hangout in real life #oldschool. If you can’t do that can you leave audio messages (like using WhatsApp or something similar). By actually hearing your voice you can remind them that you are a human that loves them that deserves some compassion. Obviously you can do then try to do this for them too.
Do you argue with someone so that you can change their minds about something right then and there? Good luck with that! Think about your own values and attitudes about politics – how long did it take for you to form those? Did you have one conversation with someone that completely switched your view in an instant? Who taught you about your politics? What sources do you read? How does it work when someone tried to change your mind?
So be realistic. It’s not likely that in one conversation someone is going to turn around and say ‘you know what, I’ve completely changed my view here.’
You’re probably not going to change someone’s mind with one big fight. You’re more likely to change minds if you gently have a series of smaller conversations.
Also if you enter into an argument in order to win that argument then you are likely to be breaking many of the ground rules that I talked about earlier. Arguments aren’t about winning and losing – they should be about talking about and listening to different views. If you get into an argument that you are trying to win then no-one will win because you will be so busy constructing your own argument that you aren’t properly listening to the other person.
So you could take a tip from me about arguing in relationships here, where you each give each other 5 minutes to talk about your views – without interruption. The other person should just listen and pay attention. To show that they have paid attention they then have a minute to try to fairly summarise what it was the other person was saying. Then you switch.
Another thing you can do, again I’ve got tips on how to do this here, is to have a discussion where you each talk for a minute about different topics. It’s not an argument but an airing of different views. If you do this you could try not actually referring to each other but just to say what you think about a thing.
If you try this and feel like you are getting too angry to properly listen to the other person, be fair and say so. If it’s not something you feel like you can do right now, ask for time. If you are not sure what it is you really think about a topic, say so. If you feel you need to find out more about a topic before you have an opinion, it’s okay to admit that.
Of course this is all waaaay easier said than done. If you have a parent who voted Brexit and you are dating (say) a Dutch person you could be seriously pissed off right now. If you are a woman, person of colour, immigrant, Muslim, trans, queer, lesbian, gay or bisexual or friends with anyone who is – you could be (quite understandably) angry and scared of people who have voted for Trump right now.
Having an compassionate and calm argument is easier said that done.
You might not be in a place to be doing this kind of compassionate arguing with these people for the time being – in which case it’s totally okay to take time out from relationships (if you can) or to take time out from talking about politics. Self care and self compassion is key before you can get into this kind way of arguing with other people.
If the other person continues not to pay attention to what you need when you are having a disagreement – or you feel like it’s always you that is doing this kind of emotional work – you miiiiight want to think about how healthy this relationship is and whether you need to change it or end it (if you can). Or you might want to develop other relationships where your needs are respected (even if they disagree with you).
Meanwhile look out for if someone who disagrees with you shows you some compassion and thank them for it. Sometimes the stuff we disagree with people about can be so huge that we feel that we can never have any relationship with them again – but if you reflect on it and look upon the other person kindly then you may be able to remember all the stuff you have in common as well as all the stuff you don’t.