Wisdom//

How to Maintain Friendships When You Have Different Political Views

Seek to understand, not to convince.

Riccardo Piccinini / Shutterstock
Riccardo Piccinini / Shutterstock

At one point or another, you’ve probably had an encounter with someone who had different political beliefs than you. These situations can be quite tricky to navigate — especially when the person you disagree with is a friend of yours. That said, maintaining strong relationships with friends who have views that are different from your own — and even actively seeking out new acquaintances who see political matters from another perspective — can actually bring you closer and strengthen your bonds. 

We asked members of the Thrive community about how they’ve maintained strong relationships with friends who hold different political beliefs. Their strategies can help you keep your friends close.

Find your mutual joy 

“Staying friends with people who have different political opinions isn’t difficult — if you respect one another, that is. My friends and I think of it as liking different NFL teams. Mutual respect comes when you understand that our opinions grow from our environment and experiences. Not everyone’s experiences match our own. If we remember that and ask them why they believe what they do, we set ourselves up for empathy and understanding. If that fails, agree to disagree, and focus on areas of your lives that bring mutual joy.” 

—Scott Miller, marketing director, Wilmington, DE

Don’t take it personally 

“When it comes to politics, I’ve learned not to take anything personally. Too often, people interpret a different opinion as an attack, when it has nothing to do with who they are as a person. When I engage with someone who is passionate about an issue, I listen to what they have to say and try to understand the belief from their perspective, not mine. This is how I’ve come to see the gray areas in politics, and develop compassion for people who believe in different things than I do.”

—Summer Anderson, executive assistant, DuBois, PA 

Respectfully challenge views

“I have many friends who hold opposing political viewpoints. We discuss politics regularly, mostly on social media, and I make sure to support my views with facts and remove myself from any conversations that get too personal. I also make a point of trying to get to the bottom of why each person holds the view that they do. Sometimes I challenge a perspective that can’t be backed up with facts, but I make sure it’s the views that I challenge, not the person.”

—Lucy Hodgson, business owner, United Kingdom

Seek to understand, not to convince 

“The inability to remain friends with someone who thinks differently than you is one of the most dangerous trends affecting the United States right now. Having respectful and productive conversations about politics and otherwise is the only way to truly innovate, see blind spots, and move forward. Too many people surround themselves in enclaves where their current perspective is reinforced, ultimately creating confirmation bias. My best friend and I have probably never voted for the same political candidate, and yet we have remained friends for over 30 years. Our relationship is built upon strong mutual respect, and hearing — not just listening to respond — to build awareness and understanding. We have found that we really want the same things; we just think there are different ways to arrive at those things. We don’t approach any conversation with the intent of convincing the other — we simply try to learn and understand. There can be multiple truths in the room.” 

—Kristin Heck Sajadi, consultant and social awareness entrepreneur, Lexington, KY

Avoid a “me versus them” mentality 

“I prevent conversations from morphing into ‘me versus them.’ Talking politics is usually a way to discuss the core values that define us. So when others espouse a different set of values, we feel less secure and emotionally safe. In turn, we feel the need to defend our values, part of which becomes attacking those of the other person. Political conversations are ostensibly about what’s best for the country, its people, and our common welfare. If kept in that frame, we can all find policies that have both benefited and harmed us, regardless of where we fall on the political spectrum. Recognizing and fighting our tendency to fall into defense mode can help us have constructive conversations without jeopardizing relationships.” 

—Justin Rhodes, mechanical engineer, Pompton Lakes, NJ

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