I’ve always dreaded election years because it means a year of fighting, bad mouthing each other, and generally acting disrespectful towards people we claim to adore. The process of choosing a figurehead to oversee the running of the country breaks apart more friends and families than just about anything else. I’ve seen it on message boards that I belong to, where people who have been friends for over a decade start sniping at each other and driving each other away. I’ve seen it in my own family, which is very divided when it comes to politics.
Personally, I think it’s ridiculous how typically civilized, decent people become rabid animals spewing vitriol towards everyone with an opposing viewpoint every four years. I’m not a confrontational person by nature, so I avoid all political debate. I know what I stand for and what I believe, and I’ve also learned long ago that it is nearly impossible to get someone else to change their firmly held beliefs. To me, the best way to keep friends and family during an election year is to just not discuss politics with them. Declare yourself a political-free zone! If you happen to enjoy political debate, however, you can still engage in it without wrecking lifelong friendships or alienating your favorite cousin or sibling.
How to Keep Friends and Family During an Election Year
- Be respectful of other people and their opinions.Showing respect for another person doesn’t mean you agree with them, it just means you see them as a person who deserves to be treated with kindness.
- Remember why you’re friends.Obviously, something beyond politics drew you to friends who hold opposing viewpoints. Try to remember what that was before you speak. I have many friends who are conservatives while I’m pretty much as liberal as they get, yet we’re still friends because they all have many good qualities as well. Before you start arguing, think about whether an event that comes around once every four years is really worth losing someone that is there for you daily.
- Use your indoor voiceand grown-up words. Don’t yell, start typing in all caps, or resort to childish taunts and name calling. You’re better than that!
- Take a time out.If things start to get too heated, walk away from the computer or leave the room. Take a few deep breaths and go back to rule number 2 (remind yourself that you really do like the person that you’re debating with).
- Delete your first response.More friendships and families are broken online, especially on Facebook, than in person because we seem to be more willing to say nasty things when we’re hiding behind a keyboard. I admit, sometimes I get so riled up by a comment that I start typing a diatribe filled with thinly veiled insults and passive-aggressive undertones that is pretty much guaranteed to start a fight. Then I delete it and either leave it alone entirely or type something a little more civil. When it comes to heated political debate, your first response is typically formed out of anger, and that’s when we’re at our meanest. Delete it before you post it, because once it’s there, you can’t take it back.
- Apologize. If you do let the heat of the moment take over and turn you into a raving lunatic, apologize. Saying you’re sorry for being nasty does not mean you’re saying you were wrong in your opinions, it just means you’re sorry for letting the moment turn you into someone that you’re typically not.
- Be more mature than the people who run the campaigns.The one thing that I despise most about elections is how it seems like the campaigns are run by play yard bullies. Instead of each candidate saying “this is what I plan to do, and this is why I feel I’m awesome,” the campaigns center around mudslinging and attacking the other candidate. Don’t stoop to their level!
- Follow the Golden Rule.Treat others the way you want to be treated. If everyone did that, the world would be a much nicer place.
Remember, elections come once every four years, but friends and family are forever. If you keep that in mind and follow the basic rules of respectful behavior, you and your loved ones can make it through November unscathed.