Navigating Politically-Divided Relationships
By Meghan Kolcum, (CBI Intern) 04/27/2022
Politics, a controversial and begrudgingly daunting topic that, may, yield emotional discomfort and wedge, what used to be, kindred relations.
How does this happen?
Each year the media portrays a fragmented and politically divided America. Nonetheless, political tensions and animosity run amok as blame is adverted to the oppositional party.
When dichotic situations are enabled, peace and amicable conversations can seem impossible to ensue. Furthermore, as thought processes are paradoxical, arguments are more likely to escalate, and more times than not are due to irrevocable mindsets. Nonetheless, rationale and open-mindedness seem to vaporize as emotional tensions flare. It can be a daunting task to discuss topics saturated in polarized thought processes. However, for those considering walking the fine line into the middle ground, I want to provide some pointers that may alleviate tensions and reduce heated conversations.
Increase your own self-awareness and personal beliefs, biases, and values.
Explore your own beliefs, biases, and values towards specific political topics. Initially, your thoughts may exist in an all or nothing mindset which may exhibit tendencies of believing a specific topic to be right or wrong. However, I would request that you elaborate on your stance. First and foremost, attempt an “I Statement” which is simply a way of reporting how you feel about a topic at hand. For example, “I feel _(emotion)__ pertaining to __(political topic)_.” Then I would request you take it a step further and apply the inquiry of, “why.” This will provide rationale and insight into your understanding and allow you to discuss the intent alluding to your reasoning. However, one should do this in a mindfully and non-judgmental way—meaning to apply an open mind towards the other constituent in the conversation and not yield blame. If these concepts seem too abstract, a helpful material may include Socratic Questions, which is a structured approach to explore complex ideas, analyze concepts, and uncover assumptions. Gaining knowledge and insight into your thoughts and emotions may reduce tensions that could occur in heavy conversations.
Establish boundaries and guidelines with the individual you plan on conversing.
Boundaries are rules and limitations that you and the affiliate will decide to set prior to the conversation. Thus, providing allowances for navigating and broaching specific topics while others may be off limits. Boundaries are a useful way of setting parameters for yourself and constituent whereby each party agrees to respect the limits set upon the conversation. If broken, the conversation may be put on pause or stopped until the broken parameters are discussed.
Check-In with yourself during the conversation.
Increasing your self-awareness is key. Check-in with your body during the conversation. If you notice your body is tense, jaw is clenched, or hands balled up into fists, take a second and breathe. Ask the individual you are conversing with if you both can take a moment to pause, grab a sip of water, take in some fresh air before returning to the conversation. If you recognize that you do not want to continue the conversation, that is okay. Listen to your body and mind. Provide yourself with ample space; it is okay to put yourself first, especially during demanding conversations.
Apply self-care, as needed.
After the conversation has ended, and depending on how you feel, it may be beneficial to externalize sentiments that may have stewed inside of you. Whether that takes the shape and form of creativity, like drawing, coloring, painting, working out, or relaxing. The choice is ultimately up to you. Below you will find a link to applying self-care, if needed.
Reflect on Experience.
Once applications of self-care have been applied, over the course of the next day or week, you may take some time to document your experience. For some assistance, here are some questions you may wish to engage and answer: What did you learn or takeaway from the conversation? Did you feel like you were listening with intent or notice a tendency to stonewall the other individual? Did you have moments when you wanted to get up and walk away from the conversation? Did you go into the conversation with the audacious cue to listen and gain insight into the other person’s perspective? What were some moments that stood out to you or moments you wish you could change? Holding space for more difficult conversations will allow you to learn, grow, and understand yourself in a larger-scaled perspective. Regardless of experience, there are no right or wrong answers. This is truly an experience that you took the time to participate in and/or have decided to consider. Perhaps this was a difficult task for you to acknowledge or involve yourself in, and that is okay. This is your journey, and you are the sole agent of change.