With the pandemic continuing, many of us have been weighing whether or not it’s a good idea to see our family, friends, or even go back to our dentist.  And for some of these relationships, the question looms, how do I get along with so and so when we don’t agree?

Sure, we all have people with whom we don’t see eye to eye.  But never before have we seen this much ongoing division amongst us.  It seems everywhere we turn there are highly charged events occurring and being talked about.  Our buttons are being pushed on a daily basis.  The amount of information inundating us is overwhelming, and some of us want to talk about it.  Some of us don’t.  Some of us just want to talk things over with those that agree with us. But what about those people in our lives that we love and care about with whom we don’t agree?  How do we stay connected with them?  Here are just a few tips to consider as restrictions in some places ease and we begin to gather with our loved ones.

What Can I do?

Be respectful.

Own your part.  Each one of us plays a role in interactions with others.  Be mindful of the language you use, the ways you’re communicating, and be kind.  Consider how you’re conveying your point of view.  Feel out if the other person is open to education about the topic you’re discussing, and be prepared to educate yourself if you haven’t already.

Have empathy.

Everyone has their own experience.  Take some time to try to remember the person you’re talking with, thinking about, disagreeing with as just that, a person.  You may be feeling strong emotions about this person’s beliefs and that is okay.  What’s not okay is the slippery slope of attacking others to the point where we’ve dehumanized them.  This leads to hate, fear, and disgust and only harms our relationships and decreases the likelihood that we’ll come together on issues that affect us all.

Take a break and take care of yourself.

We all have limits.  Notice how you’re feeling by tuning into your body when you’re watching the news, talking with others about emotionally charged topics, and when these topics are on your mind.  Take a cue from your body and mind and notice how much is too much for you.  Take breaks from social media, the tv and internet so you can recharge.  Eat well, prioritize sleep and exercise, and engage with favorite hobbies to take care of yourself.  We need to rest in order to integrate.

Know when and who you can challenge and when to agree to disagree.

Many of us go into discussions with the goal of changing someone’s mind, or poking holes in their point of view because we feel strongly about ours.  This isn’t always possible or even likely.  Instead, consider that you are learning about them as much as they’re learning about you and that may be as far as you’re able to get right now.  Know when it’s time to challenge (gently) and when it’s time to set the discussion aside and move on to other topics for the sake of the relationship.

Get support from your allies.

Chances are there are at least one or two others in your circle who see eye to eye with you and can at least validate how you see things.  Reach out to them when you need support.

Look for common ground.

What can you two agree on?  What do you both see similarly?  It’s important we all keep discussing and exchanging ideas and information if we’re going to see positive change.  If nothing else, chances are if you’re both passionately disagreeing about something, you can both agree it’s crucial and worth talking about.

Healthy communication supports healthy relationships

These tips and strategies are not only applicable to the division many of us are experiencing in politics, race relations, and all things pandemic.  They can apply to conflict, healthy communication in relationships, and for times of change in our lives.  However, while they sound easy, they take practice.  Identify one of the skills from the list to begin practicing, and be kind to yourself while you try it out.

I’ve tried everything, now what?

Even with the best of intentions and with taking all the “right” steps to stay connected or strengthen our connections with others, we can get stuck and repeat patterns.  If you’re finding yourself stuck, feeling lonely, and wondering what it is you can do to deepen your connections with others, therapy can help.  I’m glad you’re here.

Photo credit: Photo by Negative Space