What to Do When Your Friend Has Different Political Views
The Do's and Don'ts of Navigating a Friendship With Differing Political Views
- Listen to what your friend has to say and take a minute to think before responding irrationally.
- Be the first to apologize if an argument gets heated.
- Stay open to hearing a different opinion or view even if you're pretty sure you won't agree with it.
- Put your friend on blast or purposely embarrass them in front of your other friends, whether in person or on social media.
- Try to speak for a group you don't belong to.
- Be afraid to end a friendship if the person is using their political beliefs to justify hurtful, unkind or derogatory behavior.
I grew up in a pretty evangelical environment and though I don't fit in there anymore, I still cherish a lot of the friendships that were forged there. Sometimes though, these friends and I don't exactly see eye-to-eye when it comes to politics. That wouldn't be as big of a deal if it weren't for the blaring posts floating all over social media - I can't unknow what my friends believe and vice versa, which creates a lot of awkwardness during times of political tension.
So what should you do if you and your friend don't agree on political and social issues taking up the airwaves these days? Here's what I've learned about navigating friendships in a political climate influenced by social media and 24/7 news coverage.
Understand What is Political
We tend to group every hot button issue under the umbrella of politics, however some things aren't politics so much as they are basic Human or Civil Rights.
What Are Civil Rights?
Civil Rights are defined as the guarantee of equality regardless of a person's race, gender or other personally identifying factors. The right to vote, for instance, is a Civil Right.
Civil Rights, Explained
What Are Human Rights?
Human Rights belong to each and every one of us regardless of nationality, gender, race, religion or age. The right to an education, opinion and freedom from slavery are all considered Human Rights.
Human Rights, Explained
Topics That Aren't Debatable
Now that we've covered Civil and Human Rights, it's important to note that these topics aren't debatable. Unlike politics, they're inherent to the health of a society and can't be confused with issues like Domestic Policy or taxes. Discussing parking fees in your local downtown district isn't the same as believing you have a right to say who can get married. One is a political issue and the other is an inherent right.
Topics That Aren't Up for Debate
Marriage and Family Equality
What if I Don't Agree That Everyone is Entitled to Civil or Human Rights?
If you're having trouble seeing a friend's perspective on Civil or Human Rights because you believe not all humans should possess these rights, ask yourself these questions:
- If I'm free to abide by my own religious or personal beliefs, why don't I want others to have the same right?
- What is truly being taken from me if another group of people practices their own beliefs?
- What experiences have contributed to my way of thinking?
Life moves fast and Civil and Human Rights expand as oppressed groups fight for their basic rights. Although it's helpful to explore your inner biases and rethink your viewpoints, understand that if your opinions hold back another group of people from living peacefully and accessing their rights, you are the one with the wrong viewpoint.
What if My Friend Doesn't Agree That Every Human Possesses Civil or Human Rights?
If someone you care about doesn't agree that everyone is entitled to their Human and Civil Rights should you end the friendship? Maybe. First you should ask yourself these questions:
- Is my friend willing to listen? When we have a conversation, does my friend give me a chance to talk and when they respond are they looking to win or are they focused on learning?
- What factors and experiences may have contributed to their unfair biases and opinions? Is it possible that a friendship with me could help them to see things from an equal and fair perspective?
- Does my friend believe using physical force or harm towards oppressed groups of people is acceptable? (If so, this is a good sign, your friend needs to go).
Although it isn't your job to change a person's discriminatory behavior, some friendships can be positively influenced. However, if your friend expresses violence or violent language towards an oppressed group of people you must ask yourself how your association with this person is harming the greater good.
Dealing on Social Media
Hide Your Friend's Content
When it comes to seeing posts from your friend who has different views than you, things can get annoying - fast.
This is where hiding your friend's posts becomes the single smartest thing you can do save your friendship or at least your sanity.
Why It's The Smartest Thing to Do
It doesn't mean you're unfriending them, and it doesn't even mean they'll know you hid their content, all it means is that when you login into Facebook, you won't see their posts unless you specifically go to their individual page and scroll through their feed.
Here's how to hide a friend on Facebook, without unfriending them:
- Login to your Facebook.
- Type your friend's name into the search bar to get to their profile page.
- Once you're on their page, you'll see that on their cover photo, there's the little gray box that says "Friends" and next to that is a little gray box that says "Following".
- Click the "Following" tab and select "Unfollow".
There's that's it! Now you won't have to see their posts anymore but you'll still remain friends. At least in the Facebook sense.
Refrain From Purposely Embarrassing Your Friend
During the 2016 election season my cousin was posting a lot of stuff from a particularly slimy conspiracy theory site. I was replying with a lot of reasons why I thought she shouldn't trust this source. Guess what happened? She didn't suddenly agree with my point of view. Nope, instead we got into an argument for all of our friends and family to see and we both ended up looking childish and mean.
Why It's The Smartest Thing To Do
If you embarrass your friends on Facebook by pointing out their inability to properly research something, it doesn't help them to change their opinion and it can open up a whole can of worms. Chances are, if you and your friends disagree so deeply on a particular topic, or source, there's no convincing one another otherwise because you're operating in totally different realms anyway.
Remember That Facebook is an Echo Chamber
That means that in that space, you exist with a bunch of other people who just reinforce your ideas about what you believe - and the same goes for your friends and their friends with the same beliefs.
How Social Media Echo Chambers Work:
- Through Facebook groups we get to know others who think about things the same way we do, and that's wonderful, but it also limits our exposure to those who have different views and experiences than we do. Essentially, by joining these groups, we're curating our social environment to only include those who will agree with us without question.
- By following only a handful of news sources you're confined to an unintentional bias.
- You can hide friends who don't believe the same things you do, customizing your feed to only include stories told from a narrative that's palpable to you.
Politics and Friendship
Do you think it's okay to stay friends with someone who has different political views than you?
Questions to Ask Yourself Before Responding To a Political Argument
Can I be part of a civil discussion here, or am I all fired up?
So many times I've encountered debates or arguments with friends on social media, in person or through text where I just want to start slapping titles like "Racist" across their forehead. But what you say can't be taken back and in the heat of the moment it may not be helping your argument and it might actually be reinforcing the other person's negative idea about it.
"When you’re talking with people and arguing and disagreeing with them, that’s fine, that’s great. That’s what politics is supposed to be. But when what you’re saying is aimed at discrediting their sincerity and decency, not rebutting their arguments, but saying 'yeah, you’re just saying that because you’re bribed by the Koch brothers.' Or you know, 'you’re a fascist, you’re a racist.' Those aren’t real arguments. Those are attempts to discredit the other. So, that’s the more adversarial, confrontational, zero sum, or you might even say negative sum – the more I can hurt you, the better I am. And that’s what our politics has descended more into than it used to be."
Is my comment helpful, or important?
Before you go commenting on or responding to a friend who's just said something you don't agree with, ask yourself if what you have to say is helpful.
Here's some guidelines I follow to know if my opinion is helpful:
- If you are a literal expert on the subject (involved in a specific career field or you have a degree on the topic) then your comments might be helpful. For instance, if you are a doctor or nurse then your comments regarding the government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic are helpful.
- You have a factual source to correct a piece of misinformation. These are often going to be .ORG or .EDU sites.
- The subject isn't opinion or rumor based. If your friends are arguing about Ted Cruz being the Zodiac Killer - this is a rumor and you should just move along and maybe go water your houseplants because that's a lot more productive.
- Your comment can help another person or group who has been unjustly attacked to feel less alone.
Am I trying to speak for a group that I don't belong to?
A few years back I was in a Facebook group for writers in my niche when a discussion about this Dove ad was started by a white woman who was offended for anyone who wasn't white, particularly black women. This proceeded into a day long argument exclusively between the white members of this group.
When I gently suggested that the white members of the group take a conversational step back and allow the black women within the group to share their own feelings on the ad and whether or not they were offended (and why) I started an all-out war.
The women of color in this group said that with all of the noise from the offended white people ringing so loud there was no way their own voices - the group at the center of the argument - would be heard anyway.
Moral of the story: Don't speak for a group that you don't belong to and if this is something you tend to do, stop. You may mean well but when we try to advocate for a group we don't belong to (without being asked by them to do so) we steal their voice and exploit their marginalization for our own gratification.
Yes, you can be an ally, yes you can stick up for someone who is being obviously bullied just as you would for your friend on the playground. However, if the lines are blurred and, as with the Dove ad, the message is open to interpretation, close your mouth, remove your fingers from the keyboard, and let the members of the affected group have their turn to voice their feelings. You might actually learn something about how to better advocate for them by you know, listening.
You may mean well but when we try to advocate for a group we don't belong to we steal their voice and exploit their marginalization for our own gratification.
FAQs About Political Differences Between Friends
Should you stay friends with someone who has different beliefs?
There isn't a simple answer to this. It's not usually something that can be taken lightly and there's certainly graceful ways to go about ending or at least distancing a friendship.
Take for instance my cousin. I continue this friendship because underneath our differences, we still enjoy each other and have learned from our past to be better listeners and to say sorry when we're wrong.
What if You Have a Friend Who is Just Plain Evil?
You know what I mean. Someone who doesn't just have differing political viewpoints but whose views cross the line from being obnoxious to unethical (like saying hateful and derogatory things about a particular group of people) or who, even more confusing, expresses views that are in line with your own but through their actions prove otherwise.
If you have a friend who is just kind of a horrible person beneath the surface and who uses their political ideologies to back up that aspect of their personality then yes, you should break off that friendship and make room for friends who, regardless of political affiliation or opinion, are true, open and kind.
How can you tell if a friend's political views cross the line?
Here's some ways you can gauge if it's time to unfriend-in-real-life:
- They post or talk about political and social movements just to start arguments within your friend group.
- You're only friends with them out of convenience (a classmate, a coworker, a relative, etc.), not because you have similar views and interests.
- They use derogatory language when describing a group of people.
- They use their political affiliations to influence and take advantage of a vulnerable person(s).
- They're completely closed off to a civil debate or conversation that veers outside their own bubble of belief.
How to Stay Friends With Someone Who Has Different Political Views
Give your friend space and take a little space from yourself. Being all up in each other's stuff after a hot debate could cause more friction.
Avoid having political discussions anywhere except in person. That way, you have to look each other in the eye before responding, and really think about the weight of your words.
Do things together that are neutral - head out for an ice cream cone, play a round of putt-putt or spend an afternoon on the beach. Avoid movies, book discussions or other outings that could cause ya'll to start controversial conversations.
Keep in mind that your friend is just another human. Imagine them as a child and why their upbringing may have influenced their rhetoric and try your best to be a positive, loving influence on them.
© 2019 Em Clark