My husband and I joke about the joy we feel when we cancel out each other’s vote due to having opposing political views. We couldn’t be more different in some ways, yet we adore each other most days, so I do know it is possible to not only get along with someone who thinks differently than I do, but to love and respect them as well.
Believe me, I’m not saying all days are perfect. We both can get worked up and roll our eyes at each other, wondering how anyone in their right mind can see the world the way our irrational, stubborn spouse does. But most days, we do a decent job of hearing each other out, knowing full well our words will never win the other over, but at the very least challenge us.
Society is losing the art of embracing and respecting different political views. The divide gets bigger and bigger, so it can be a challenge to remember to not let the negativity squirm its way into our personal lives and drive wedges between each other.
Debating my spouse hasn’t magically made me change views, and, in fact, our conversations usually solidify my stance even further, but it has helped me to value the tool of respecting those who don’t agree with everything I have to say.
On the days we’re not gritting our teeth and shaking our heads at each other, we remember the person in front of us is worthy of respect, patience and understanding. Those reactions honestly don’t always come easily because being human means being a jerk sometimes who clutches to what we see as the truth without any grace towards others and their experiences, beliefs and understanding of the world.
When we start to talk about politics, which we agree to not do often, I do my best to slow down, breathe, and remember these steps to stay in the conversation without losing my mind.
1--Generalizations are Often Fake News
The biggest thing I try to remember when talking to anyone who challenges me is that generalizations are disrespectful and most times inflated in our imaginations. We often have a stereotype in our head of who someone is based on the media or gossip in our own circles. Any time you say words like “all” and fill in the blank with whatever party you’re talking about, you are definitely not seeing the picture fully.
Not all Republicans are racists who don’t care about others. I would say most don’t fit that description, in fact. Not all Democrats are “snowflakes” who want to live on welfare. Again, that’s just a ridiculous, hateful generalization on both sides that we’ve seen on the media, but the truth is, most of us live in the middle, rational ground and most likely share more values than we realize.
I’m thankful when I come in contact with real live people who think differently than I do, so I can be humble enough to see that humans with views speak louder than what we assume the worst of them to be.
2--Asking Questions is the Only Way to Learn
I do my best to ask questions when I’m talking to someone with opposing views not to push them or be confrontational, but to be curious about their experiences. We all have had different experiences, upbringings and views that have created different lenses to see the world through. Instead of having a quick knee-jerk reaction to a view I cannot grasp, I try to ask them questions to help me see what they're seeing. If I see it, I’m more likely to understand it instead of falsely believing that my view is the only view and anyone else who believes otherwise is irrational.
3--Listen, Listen, Listen
Any heated debate can go sour and listening goes out the door as we become aggressive to “win”. We talk over each other to the point where nothing is accomplished--only more frustration that might lead us to assume the worst and start believing the false generalizations in our heads about the other person’s party.
If we both listen and respectfully hear and absorb what the other person is saying instead of focusing only on what we’ll fire back, the conversation will go a lot better. There’s no guarantee the other person will be willing to listen, but there’s no need to go down that ugly path with them. Let that be a solo trip if it turns that way.
4--Acknowledge You See Them
Sometimes a great conversation can help shed light for someone on where you’re coming from. You’re basically telling them, “It’s like this for me” and showing them a slice of your life. Humans seem to have a misunderstanding that if we don’t agree with someone’s views, we can’t even acknowledge they have good reason to feel that way.
Acknowledging where someone different from you is coming from can mean finding understanding of your differences, and understanding is the gateway drug to respect even when you don't agree.
5--Check Your Ego at the Door
When we forget to check our ego at the door, we focus on being misled that we are right and they are wrong. When that is our guiding belief, there’s little room for active listening. It’s a slippery slope to anger and incredulous disbelief that someone could think such a way. Trust me, I’ve been on the slope several times, and it’s not easy to get back on track once you’re sliding down, clinging to your ego.
So, yes, my vote canceled out my husband’s, but I have to accept his canceled out mine. Neither of us is right, and neither of us is wrong. Sometimes we do a great job of accepting that, and other times we fail by getting frustrated at the differences rather than being curious about them. It’s a daily exercise in remembering that loving those with different views takes patience and a willingness to ask questions and drop the rapid judgment that comes with assuming the worst of someone.
As frustrating as we might find them to be, they are just as frustrated with us. That might be the one thing we all can agree on.