The Politics of Friendship: Political (di)Stress is Being Experienced Globally and it is Impacting Friendships, Old and New.


*Friendships across political lines* is a challenging topic to write about, in part, because there is so much intense energy around this topic. It is difficult to know where to begin. And that, I believe, is a reflection of how challenging this topic can be in friendships too.

If you want to talk politics, where do you begin? Are there issues you avoid? And, as stated in one article I read, how do you *know when enough is enough*? When might you need a break from talking politics in certain friendships?


I don’t know about you, but I have definitely made assumptions about people’s political views (or the strength of their political convictions) that turned out to be incorrect. And, I have also assumed that because a friend self-identifies as belonging to the same political group as me, that this means we share the same values. Also not necessarily true and definitely limiting.

In friendship, we hope we can be accepted as we are. We hope that there is room for our similarities and our differences. And yet, when it comes right down to it, our differences can be very difficult to tolerate or accept. Our differences can drive us apart, polarize us, and they can lead to cut-offs or endings.

Navigating friendships across political lines is challenging and can be distressing. And, we need strong, healthy, flexible friendships more than ever right now, for our collective health and wellness.

Interestingly, one study…found that, *[while] people tend to seek out others with similar political views, the researchers noted, other factors mattered more to the success of a friendship: trustworthiness, dependability and an easygoing manner.* (from What Makes for a Good Friendship). This is likely true in some friendships, which is good news!

Social media seems to be a place where many of these polarized conversations are unfolding, so, how do we resist *knee-jerk* reactions to things our friends say or post? Can we stop and consider our response (can be easier said than done) and try to shift to being open and curious? Can I find common ground despite our differences?

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We are wondering, have your friendships survived political differences? And, if so, how?

And, what can we do? How can we approach this topic with our friends?

Here are a few thoughts and we welcome your thoughts and suggestions too!

One possibility, which may depend on the kind of friendship you have with someone is: *Get some of your political differences out of the way with a friend, [this] may help the two of you find common ground on other issues, especially when the subject is approached from a place of mutual respect.* (Stephen Antczak, Next Avenue Contributor)

Or, alternatively, do you agree not to talk politics? 

Consider your friends perspective (this does not mean agreeing) and the bigger picture. And ask your friend to do the same for you. Is there space in your friendship for both perspectives?

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The Smart Art of Friendship: On Friendship and Time

“The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart.” ~ Elizabeth Foley

When we are students or working alongside colleagues, we have lots of opportunities to meet people, to get to know them, to become friends and to build the friendship. We spend whole chunks of time together and can plan on seeing each other on a routine basis. These structures allow for built in times to connect and support meeting people and growing our connections with them.

Certainly we will learn more about each other while we work together on a project or assignment, something that we have to complete within a certain deadline. There are also all those spontaneous moments at work or in school when we become better acquainted with people: during classes or meetings, lunch break, mid-morning or afternoon break, at the “water cooler”, snippets of time after meetings or class, and leaving work or school together.

And then we graduate from school or leave our workplace. This is when our friendship is tested for the first time and we have the opportunity to see whether it is dependent on a situation or place or if flexes with our lives. We can learn about its strengths and its vulnerabilities

As life fills up with work, chores and errands (paid work, house work, child care, elder care precious time to spend with our friends can be hard to find or create. Until the time when we need to lean on a friend for support, help, caring or encouragement.

Here is one friendship story that illustrates how the transition from “work friends” to “friends beyond the work place” can be tricky. It is a great illustration for managing expectations, especially for time with each other and for committing to time together and how that time will be spent.

Amanda and Jennifer met as project work colleagues during a contract. The project ended and they wanted to move into friendship. They tried to transition into “just friends” for a few years.

During this transition, Jennifer found that “Amanda kept talking about work and new work projects”. When they arranged to get together Amanda would call to postpone or cancel because of a work commitment.

From her perspective, Amanda felt that Jennifer “did not call regularly or share very much about herself and her personal life”. Amanda wanted to have ongoing conversations but felt that Jennifer did not make time, was not available or willing to open herself up to deepen their friendship.

Time was identified as a problem in this friendship on many levels and from many perspectives. For example: feeling that the other is not making time, feeling that one does not have time to get together, feeling that there is not enough time spent on being together or on getting to know each other, and possibly others.

Sometimes we use time as an excuse for what is really going on. What are you not saying, or how are not being honest with yourself?

Friendships that have stood not only the test of time, but the test of change are surely best. ~Joseph Parry

We are all attempting to have time for ourselves, time with family and time with friends amongst all our obligations. Time with friends can be so energizing and rewarding but when things feel “out of balance” then both people are impacted.

Some ways to offset some of the hurt and resentment of unmet expectations are to openly and honestly express your needs for time. Take the time to talk over what each of you can offer in terms of time together so that you find a middle ground.

Questions to ponder about “making time”:
How do you take time to make time for your friendships?
How do you stay connected with your friends, nearby and afar?

Copyrighted 2013 – The Smart Art of Friendship- Ruth Tamari and Amy Greenleaf Brassert