Election Year Survival Tips: How to Get Through a Political Conversation with Friends (and Remain Friends)


After a long week of extra innings from the baseball sidelines, packing endless granola bars and fruit cups in your kid’s lunch bags, and running to Target for last minute school supplies, you’ve earned your night out with your best Mama friends. And then it happens. Somewhere between Sangria and Sorbet, someone inevitably cracks a joke or throws out a pointed comment about one of the presidential candidates. Suddenly your light hearted conversation takes an awkward turn. You expected to bond with your friends over which shows to binge-watch or suggestions for your next book club reading. But once politics enter the arena, you’re suddenly transported to what feels like a CNN political debate without Anderson Cooper around to moderate. It’s then you realize you and your friends, who just moments ago were “NSync”, are now behaving like a 90s boy band breakup.

Here are some suggestions on how to rescue the evening and build stronger connections while accepting differing opinions:

Be Open To Listening To The Opposition

Enter the conversation as though you were Capt. James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise. His five year mission was to explore new lands and new civilizations. Kirk encountered each new species as though he was an anthropologist, not a colonizer. He attempted to learn and understand each group he made contact with, even those troubling Tribbles!

While you’re sitting across the table from your friend, try to channel your inner-Kirk. Ask your friend how she came to support her candidate of choice. What influenced her decision most? Remember your job is to try to understand your friend’s choice, not entice her to cross over to your party line.

Tolerate Diverse Opinions

As parents, we try to teach our children to respect and appreciate diversity. Challenging ourselves to discuss uncomfortable topics without shutting down other people’s points of view can be an important life lesson for us, as well as a valuable role model for our children.

If we think in terms of right vs. wrong, we may too quickly place ourselves on opposing teams. Disagreeing with people makes us feel uncomfortable. It’s easy to want to change the topic to reduce our own anxieties. But isn’t life full of uncomfortable moments?

Think Long Term, Not Short Term

The presidential term can last four to eight years years, but friendships last far longer. When it’s your turn to talk about your political stance, remember that your friend feels as impassioned about her point of view as you do about yours. Try to be aware of your non-verbals. Pay attention to how your body is reacting. Are you feeling angry or annoyed? Once that fight or flight response kicks in, perhaps it’s best to take a few deep breaths so you can truly be friend, not foe. Keep in mind the person across the table is your bestie, and will remain your friend and neighbor long after the election is over.

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Coren Schwartz, LCSW, has been a Westchester resident for the past fifteen years. She shares her time in Westchester helping to raise her family and working as a psychotherapist. Her expertise focuses on adult relationships and parent/child issues. When not in her office working or driving her children to their after school activities, she can be found walking her 80 pound puppy on the beautiful local trails. To learn more about Coren Schwartz and her psychotherapy practice, visit her website at http://www.psychotherapyinwestchester.com


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