Posted by Soribel Martínez, LCSW
Politics has often created tension among family members and friends. Unfortunately, divisions have become very bitter in the last several years across political lines. Families can grow to resent their relatives who belong to an opposing party or hold different values.
But before you let these political differences tear your relationships apart, take a step back. Are your politics worth more to you than your family?
This doesn’t mean that you have to compromise your political beliefs, of course. But you can find a way to respect each other and remember what’s most important. Be proactive about approaching these topics in a healthy way.
Evaluate Your Priorities
It’s impossible to ignore politics when they are on the media everywhere we turn. Likewise, it’s normal to have very strong opinions about social and moral issues. These things are important, of course.
But family is important, too. Consider the big picture of your life and what matters the most. In five, ten, fifteen, or fifty years, who will you want by your side? Will your politicians be with you when you’re ill or need help caring for your children or are entering assisted living?
This isn’t to be tongue in cheek. Sometimes it helps to take the long view of things.
Use Active Listening
When people get locked into an argument, they’re usually unable to step back enough to really listen to the other person. Tempers flare and things are said in the heat of the moment.
A technique called active listening, though, offers a way for people to communicate calmly and effectively. Briefly, this involves truly paying attention to the person in front of you, without your own agenda or being ready to debate their every word. Show them you’re listening. Ask thoughtful questions to clarify. Summarize what you hear them saying. Respond with respect.
Remember, this technique has nothing to do with getting the other person to change their mind or their opinion. Rather, it’s about showing the other person they matter to you and that you value them as a person.
Creating empathy and connection can go a long way toward healing political arguments in your family.
Agree Not to Talk About It
While this may sound overly simplistic, sometimes it is the best choice. You can love someone and have a relationship with them without talking about politics at all! You can be humorous while sticking to your boundaries.
When It’s Too Much
If a family member is consistently disrespectful to you because of your race, religion, sexual orientation, and/or politics and your attempts to communicate calmly about it go nowhere, you may have to set firmer boundaries to protect yourself.
Just because you and your family members may disagree on something, no one has the right to be derogatory, hurtful, and judgmental. This goes both ways.
When There’s More Going On
Sometimes, issues like political tension in a family can reveal deeper issues.
Perhaps your teen’s anger toward you is not so much because of your political views, but stems from something else. They may be experiencing stress at school, and home is a safe place to release their pent-up emotions.
Or your elderly parents may be worried that you won’t give them the help they may need in the future and consequently believe the government should be providing more social programs.
Likewise, a married couple may be locked in a pattern of dysfunctional communication. It’s not only politics they argue about, but everything else under the sun. In this case, couples counseling can help identify underlying issues and create a way forward.
If political issues are creating havoc in your family, please consider seeing a family therapist. I’ve worked with many families like yours to find healing and restore relationships.
If you are considering finding a therapist for your child, we have created a mini guide that shares with you 5 tips on how to select the best therapist for you and your family. You can click here to get your FREE copy:
You can also give us a call at 203.800.9778
Soribel Martinez, LCSW, CEO of SMPsychotherapy