Your friend’s politics are getting on your nerves. You need to figure out how to fix this without destroying the friendship.

When it comes to friendships, diversity makes all the difference.

It’s important to have things in common, but most solid relationships are built upon a foundation of complementary contrasts.

But as possible as it is for Yankees and Red Sox fans to be friends, some differences are harder to reconcile. When a friend or loved one holds an opinion that suggests a fundamentally different view of the world from your own, it can be painful and confusing.

You guessed it: I’m talking about politics.

Political views don’t define a person, but it’s easy to think that way in the wake of a challenging and polarizing political season.

Once you develop a negative opinion of someone based on their politics, it’s no easy task to scrub that feeling away – even if it’s an old friendship with lots of great memories.

If you want to preserve a healthy friendship or save a sinking one, here are some tips for when your politics and your friend’s politics just don’t match.

If you want to stay quiet.

During this past election, I was shocked at how differently some of my friends felt about who should be president.

I was so disappointed to think that someone I trust and care about could have such a fundamentally different view of the world. Sometimes loitered around Twitter and Facebook pages to see what they were posting, even when I didn’t plan on writing a response. I just wanted to follow my friends’ political discussions.

Eventually, I realized that if I wasn’t going to disagree with them publicly, it was pathetic to resentfully stalk their accounts. What I’d find would only disappoint and anger me. It can be so addicting to read comments and posts from people you disagree with, but unless you want to speak up it will only hurt your friendship.

If you believe that friendship and politics don’t mix, here are some strategies on staying sane for the next four years:

  • Block them on social media. Unless you see someone regularly, social media is the best way to stay in touch with them. It’s also the easiest way to find reasons to hate them. Unfollowing them on Facebook or Twitter can make it easier to maintain the friendship, especially if they’re particularly vocal about politics.
  • Install a browser extension. People began complaining about too much political content on social media during the presidential election. Now, developers have responded with browser extensions that scrub your news feeds of anything political. They’re not foolproof, but they can minimize how many political posts you see.
  • Talk to them personally. Asking your friend not to mention politics via text, email or social media is hard, but asking them in person is much easier. Tone is misunderstood less often when people are face to face or on the phone with each other.

If you want to speak up.

Of course, not all of us can or even want to stay quiet. Maybe you feel passionately about an issue. Whether you are disagreeing with your parents, other relatives, or friends, it’s important to be careful as you move forward.

Here are some suggestions on how to disagree with a friend’s politics without offending or upsetting them:

  • Seek to understand, not convince. Author Jason Vitug of You Only Live Once said in the last year he’s been surprised at how many loved ones he disagrees with on politics. Instead of ignoring what they say or arguing with them, Vitug tries to understand how they came to that conclusion and asks them why they believe what they do. Doing so has made him more compassionate and less dismissive. “I’ve learned for the most part that all of us want the best, but how we get there will differ,” Vitug said.
  • Find common ground. The differences between your mother-in-law’s politics and your own can seem like an irreparable gulf. Instead of focusing on what you disagree with, find opinions you have in common. The less you see someone as an enemy, the easier it will be to stay friends.
  • Learn their stories. Like Vitug, writer Julie Rains of Investing to Thrive said she asks people their reasons for holding a certain opinion. She often finds that their background informs their opinions more than she realized. She said it makes it easier to see their point of view after finding out what their stories are.
  • Avoid name-calling. Disagreeing about your friend’s politics is like arguing about any other topic. Once you start name-calling, a friendly disagreement can quickly turn ugly. No matter how heated the discussion gets, try to keep your cool. The more respectful you are, the better the chance for your message to get through – and for your friendship to survive.
  • Send a private message. Disagreeing on social media can turn sour quickly, especially when emotions are inflamed. The public nature of the medium can make that worse, allowing for strong opinions to pile up and aggravate everyone involved. If you’re tired of fuming quietly, consider reaching out to your friend privately. You’ll be able to work out your differences on a more personal level, rather than duking it out in front of all your followers.

It’s been a bruising political season, and things aren’t getting any easier for many of us. We need to view our friends’ politics like adults, and work to keep conversations civil.

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We’re all losers at some point. The key is in learning how to lose like a winner.

I’ve been adulting for a quarter of a century now.

As someone raised in a very politically engaged family, though, I’ve been politicking for even longer. By the time I had civics in high school, my political views were firmly planted. I knew everything I needed to know and my beliefs were facts.

I’ve since learned much more about myself and how the world works. I’ve learned that our ignorance doesn’t so much lie in what we know but rather in what we don’t know.

My biggest political mistake was not considering what I didn’t know, or that the opposite of what I know could also be true.

With this engagement and hindsight that I can say that in my lifetime each successive presidential election has been increasingly divisive. I’ve also noticed that the loser loses harder with each successive presidential election. This is true with both parties, as evidenced by the last five elections.

I don’t discount voters’ emotions and passions. I’m concerned about how our growing inability to learn how to lose with grace affects our national dialogue, our ability to work with differing political parties, and our progress as a country.

Since the most recent election, I’ve thought a lot about positive responses to losing. Below are three ways to learn how to lose that, to my mind, would improve our national dialogue, our ability to work together, and our progress.

Make a statement, not noise.

When I think of examples of recent leaders who set the benchmark for clear messages, I think of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Harvey Milk.

They both came to prominence at a time of great political and violent upheaval for their respective causes.

During the Civil Rights and Vietnam War Era, Dr. King advocated non-violent resistance. He famously said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Milk surprisingly encouraged talking. The most pain Milk wanted to inflict was for LGBT people to come out to friends, family, and colleagues.

He argued, “I know that it is hard and will hurt them, but think about how they will hurt you in the voting booth!” Lasting change happens in the voting booth and it’s hard, though not impossible, to vote against people who know and love you.

Rioting, name calling, the burning of effigies, fighting, and all other forms of violent behavior do nothing to win the hearts and minds of the opposing side. Such acts simply make people stand more firm in their existing beliefs and make voters in the middle of the road sympathetic to those being attacked. This noise does not serve the long-term cause.

As activists, Dr. King and Milk set the bar for making statements rather than noise.

How to lose like a winner.

Our culture has enough sore losers. We rather need more people who win when they lose.

In 1965, a boy was born in England to West Indian immigrants. By high school, he excelled in track and field. By the age of 20, he broke the British record for the 400 meters and broke it again two years later.

After winning several international titles, he was primed for the 1988 Olympics in Seoul Korea. Due to an injury, he had to back out of his race at the last minute. Determined to achieve Olympic glory, he had several surgeries to remedy his injury and continued his training.

By the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona Spain, he was ready. With good performances in the first round and quarter-finals for the 400 meters, success was his to grab. Halfway through the semi-final, his hamstring tore. This eliminated any chance of Olympic glory but for the fact that he will go down as one of history’s greatest losers.

I challenge you to watch this video of Derek Redmond  triumph and not get emotional. As Redmond’s dreams crashed around him, he held his head high and set the bar for losing.

Redmond’s ability to be a good loser gave him the kind of Olympic glory few will ever overshadow.

Exercise self-reflection.

For those who read my articles on Adulting, you know I’m a super-fan of the “transformational life coach” Lisa Nichols.

Most people know of Nichols by her appearance in The Secret. Nichols continues to inspire people to live bigger, better lives through her personal story, her gift of public speaking, and her many books.

Nichols grew up in the rough neighborhoods of South Central Los Angeles and, as she claims, was a below average student. In much of her work, she shares that a teacher once advised that she “get a desk job.” Another told her she’s not a good writer, and yet another recommended that she “never ‘speak’ in public.”

Later in life, Nichols found herself a single mother living on government assistance. At her lowest point, she had only $12 in her bank account and couldn’t buy diapers for her baby.

Nichols is now a transformational speaker who commands six figures for speaking in public. She’s had seven books listed on the New York Times Best Seller’s List. She is one of only two African American women founders to have a publicly held company listed on the NASDAQ.

How does one go from seemingly having no opportunities to being a multimillionaire positively changing people’s lives? You learn how to lose better.

She looked internally to make herself bigger, better, smarter, and stronger. As she says, she “ate a daily dose of ‘humble pie’” to learn what she needed to learn to affect positive change in her life and thereby affect positive change in the lives of others.

By all accounts, Nichols could’ve claimed that she was disenfranchised by her teachers. She could’ve said the institutions were designed to work against her. She could’ve blamed her circumstance on the father of her child. She could’ve said she wasn’t smart enough or good enough.

Nichols could’ve chosen to stay on government assistance. She could’ve masked her pain in drugs and alcohol. She could’ve chosen a life of violence and anger.

She didn’t. She said, “How can I be better?” She made herself step up to the plate and scored a World Series grand slam in this game called life.

These four people, Dr. King, Milk, Redmond, and Nichols, all of whom could’ve lost hard chose to lose better. That, my friends, is how you lose like an adult.

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National elections carry the most drama. But how much does that matter where you live? Local politics can give you a chance to make an impact.

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The recent election was one of the most divisive and difficult political events in recent history. On the national level, the rhetoric took its toll on our national discourse and even on family relationships.

However, national politics aren’t all there is to civics. In fact, it can be a good idea to take things down a few notches. If you really want to make a difference, your best bet might actually be to get involved with local politics.

In this episode, we look at what it takes to get involved, and how you can do more to make a difference.

Concepts

  • Why are we so obsessed with national politics?
  • How voter apathy impacts the quality of leadership we have in our country.
  • What are some of the barriers to voting locally?
  • How to find different offices to run for in your community.
  • If you don’t want to run for office, how can you get involved in local politics?
  • How to find out what matters to you.
  • Tips for looking around to see what impacts you at the local level.
  • How to handle political disagreements without being disagreeable.

This week’s “do-nows” provide you with ideas for figuring out how to take the first step in getting involved with local politics. It can be as simple as attending a city council meeting to see what issues are being talked about in your community.

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Resources

Pew Research CenterLow voter turnout U.S.
Hosted byHarlan Landes and Miranda Marquit
Produced byadulting.tv
Edited and mixed bySteve Stewart
Music bybensound.com
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