Talking politics can be detrimental to friendships

Brittany Kokoszka

I’m sure you have heard the clichéd piece of advice, “keep political views to yourself,” but to what extent is that possible when surrounded by your close friends? 

Regardless, if you decide to state them explicitly or not, your friends will eventually detect your political views through casual conversations. 

Since a conversation regarding politics is inevitable, there are key steps to take before you potentially shatter a healthy friendship with someone with different political views. If political conversations or debates arise with a friend, it may be tempting to think stubbornly that only your own views are “right” and “logical.” 

However, your friend may just as well insist that his/her own views are “correct” and “sensible.” 

Although it appears difficult to deal with such extreme differences in opinions, it is relatively easy if mutual respect is incorporated into the conversations. It is not necessary to agree with a friend’s political views, but it is essential to respect his or her views. Being a respectful communicator involves both listening and speaking skills. 

Having an open mind while attentively listening to a friend’s political opinions is a great way to exemplify your respect. 

Simply listening to a friend’s thoughts is probably not going to change your party affiliation, so you should not be afraid to take the time to hear their side of an issue. Instead, listening may make you think about and question your own political values, which shows that you are mature enough to accept different views in a friendship. 

Along with being a respectful listener, it is imperative to be a respectful speaker. 

Being a respectful speaker involves conveying your views without sounding excessively persuasive or criticizing other viewpoints.When explaining beliefs, it is not productive to sound like a salesperson trying to sell a product. “Selling” political views to a friend is likely to initiate a heated argument—the purpose of political conversations should not be to completelty change a friend’s views. It is also not productive to mention why the other political view is “unreasonable” or “foolish” in comparison to your own. 

Political beliefs, just like beauty, are in the eye of the beholder. What one finds irrational likely makes complete sense to the opinion-holder. 

Similar to religious perspectives, political perspectives have likely been ingrained into an individual over the years and influenced by family members. Therefore, trying obviously to sway a friend’s opinion will upset him or her. 

To avoid this uncomfortable situation while conversing about political topics, it is beneficial to find points of agreement, rather than disagreement. 

Even though one friend may label himself or herself as a Republican and you may label yourself as a Democrat, it does not mean that you both disagree with the entireties of the opposing parties’ platforms. 

There may be certain parts of each platform that you disagree with, thereby leaving  opportunities for agreement on both sides. 

Or, you each may agree with a particular approach taken to solve a national dilemma. Although the approach may not coincide with your general political views, it offers another opportunity for peaceful conversation. 

It is much easier to discuss topics of agreement, because you do not have to worry about offending your friend. 

Thus, by focusing on areas that both parties feel are valid and reasonable, a manageable conversation will likely follow. 

You will be able to engage in a thought-provoking conversation and build upon the point of agreement.

However, in case your friend brings up an idea that you cannot politely speak about, abide by the saying—“agree to disagree.” 

Agreement is not always going to be the case and sometimes you cannot control your strong feelings about a certain subject. Instead of delving into the argument and responding rashly, simply listen to what your friend has to say and introduce another topic instead.Although having a friend with different political views than you may seem troublesome at times, it presents an opportunity to learn about and appreciate other views. 

Being educated about other views, it allows you to partake in subsequent conversations with other people using your expanded knowledge. 

Being knowledgeable about both sides of the political spectrum gives you more credibility in conversations. Therefore, always pay attention to what your politically different friend has to say. Although you may not agree with the beliefs presented, you will always learn something from the conversation—whether it is about politics or your friend in general—and enhance your communication skills.