What to Do When You and Your Friend Disagree About Politics

Tips for Discussing Politics and Maintaining Friendships

friends having an argument
 Fabrice Lerouge/Getty Images

Chances are, your political leanings don't match those of all your friends. It's inevitable that you'll end up disagreeing with at least some of what your friends believe politically. Without proper perspective, political disagreements can end a friendship, so it's important to get a handle on things before an argument goes so far that it gets out of hand. 

How to Handle a Situation When You Disagree With People About Politics

Here are some tips to help you get along when political conversations come up.

Discuss Things Without Trying to Change Your Friend's Mind

Part of the blow-ups that happen between friends occurs because each is trying to change the other's mind. The discussion goes from a calm place to a major argument, perhaps even with yelling and personal attacks. It can be maddening to some people when a friend doesn't believe the same thing they do.

Here's a tip that will change your relationships forever with people: Let them be who they want to be. Don't try to change them or what they believe. Understand that everyone has an opinion based on the unique things that have gone on in their life. Change your focus from "Why doesn't my friend vote like I do" to "I want to understand my friend's views about politics and life." Just try and understand, even if you don't agree. (It's a challenge, but it can be done.)

Get the Facts

One of the most frustrating things about discussing politics is that people on both sides of any issue very rarely get all the facts straight. It's not always their fault. A lot of information gets thrown about in a voting year and it's easy to pick up on a small fact without putting it in context with the larger issue.

When you're having a discussion with a friend, focus on the factual statements you know to be true, and if your friend gets them wrong, give them the correct information calmly. If they argue, let it go. At least you know what the real issue is.

Don't Assume Things About Your Friend

Remember that old adage about assuming? With friendship, you naturally bond with someone and therefore feel close to them. When you share a lot in common, it can be shocking the first time you realize that you disagree about a large political, moral, or religious issue. But believe it, because even the people you share just about everything in life with will have different opinions than you.

Rather than assume that your friend shares your views, go into new discussions with the objective of finding out what your friend thinks. This is a switch in intellectual view, and will actually enhance the conversations you have. Pretend you know nothing about your pal and listen closely to what they say when you ask them about a hot-button issue.

One thing that tends to happen with arguments between friends ​(and otherwise) is that someone starts to talk about their views, but the person listening instantly gets upset because their views are different, and because they are caught off guard with their friend's take on things.

The other thing that happens is when your friend disagrees on one thing, you start to imagine the other opinions they might have. This is dangerous. Everyone has reasons for the way they vote, and they probably share some of your views and not others.

Avoid the Subject

Friends should be able to talk about most things because even when they differ they can learn something from each other. However, sometimes you both feel so strongly that there is no way you can even listen to a few words from your pal before you get upset or angry. And why do that?

Put your focus on the good of your relationship. If the majority of things about your friendship are positive, work with those instead of trying to come to an agreement politically.

Agree to Disagree

This is different than avoiding the topic altogether, however, it takes a special pair of friends to just "agree to disagree" without arguing. What this means is that you can still voice your opinions once in awhile, but you won't have a lengthy discussion about it. You'll both have the patience for listening to each other vent if need be, but when things get too heated you'll know to back off and change the subject.

Be Mindful of How Facebook Affects Your Relationship

Facebook has changed the way we interact with our friends, and sometimes that's not a good thing. That's especially true when you and your pal differ politically. Your friend may post updates all day long about their opinions (which they have every right to do), but just seeing them repeatedly will drive a wedge between the two of you.

Friendships do end over Facebook. You may feel like your friend is bombarding you with their message, and they may be thinking they're just expressing themselves. The online world makes it tough to remember our manners sometimes.

Work with the controls Facebook has in limiting the updates you get from a friend. If need be, tell your pal that you're staying off Facebook because you can't take the updates. Be honest but also respectful. If they're a real friend they aren't going to try and upset you on purpose, so hopefully, you can come to an agreement. If not, perhaps you need to block them entirely. It's better to keep a real-life friend and skip their online updates if that's what it comes down to.

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