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Don't Let Politics Ruin Your Day

It's that time again, folks! You get to engage in your local elections! I'm excited around this time because it's another chance to speak up and let the elected officials know what we (their governed) want from them. It honors our values and allows us to effect changes upon our community.

However, it is also the time where your crazy uncle comes out of the apparent woodwork and spouts off a conspiracy theory. Or your cousin who makes his own cheese wants to convince everyone that his beloved candidate will change everything. This creates a lot of tension.

Things in our political climate are continuing to polarize. I thought we'd seen the worst of it in 2016, but I am surprised every year by just how much farther we have divided.

To help you get through this election cycle, and the next, I've put together a brief list of some simple strategies grounded in psychological research by Dr. Bill Doherty, founder of Braver Angels (linked below).

  1. Remember that these are fellow humans. It is a trick of the mind to believe they are less than or that you are somehow better than them. These are our peers.

  2. Find commonalities. Because these are peers, you already have something in common with them! Do they have kids? Do you live in the same zip code? Are they lovers of the outdoors? Do you enjoy the same music or movies? Etc.

  3. Expand that to VALUES. What values do you share with them? Are they pushing for more Autonomy, Independence, Responsibility, Security, or Conservation? Do you share any of those values as well? (See my post about Values from last week for more clarity here).

  4. Be open to conversation, and to boundaries. Opportunities for discourse should be met with the explicit understanding that we are going to be respectful, honest, and avoid name-calling, black/white or all/none thinking, and misinformation. This means you're not labeling everyone who agrees with them as "idiots" or whatever fun insult the media has cooked up. And if there's no evidence of Pizza-gate (or whatever it is this year), it doesn't need to be discussed.

  5. Aim to walk away from the experience feeling neutral or positive about it. Do not engage if you know it will end poorly (yelling at said uncle that he's not invited to Christmas is a poor outcome). Not everyone will agree with you. Protect your peace and don't fight with them because they don't agree with you. Sometimes it's best to let things lie.

  6. Allow the statement "agree to disagree" to end the discussion. Change the subject. Remind yourself and them why you're friends, or why you hang out still. Back to the beginning here really. We are all humans living this life as best we know how. Live and let live.

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