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

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Friendships across political lines is challenging 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?

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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 liking true in some friendships, which is good news!

Social media seems to be a place where many of these polarized conversation 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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Forgiving. Forgiveness. For Good.

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On the heels of our previous blog post on Conflict and The Four Horsemen, we started to talk about forgiveness and what it means for friendship. Why is it important in friendships?

What does it mean to forgive following a conflict or in the face of unmet expectations?  In this blog post, we are talking about forgiving hurts, disappointments, let downs, humiliations, feeling left out, or feeling exposed without your permission (and more.)

Forgiving is not easy, especially for those of us who stockpile our hurts with a layer of resentment on top of it. Forgiving goes hand in hand with being able to be in conflict with each other which can be quite uncomfortable.

“Although it can be painful, sometimes a person we love seeks distance that we have to accept. Our friends are free to be friends with whomever they choose. Their feelings for us may wax and wane. We want everyone we love to be loyal and stable figures in our lives, but we can’t always have that. Change and impermanence are part of every relationship, and we can’t hold the clock still, much as we may try.”
~Harriet Lerner, The Dance of Connection

Sometimes forgiving is connected to what John Gottman refers to as repairing a rupture in your friendship. In relational terms repair is about getting back on track. And it allows for resilience to grow in your relationship. And, as it turns out, it is the recipient of repair that makes the difference along with how we choose to maintain friendship, intimacy and emotional connection.

Gottman describes a repair attempt as “any statement or action – silly or otherwise – that prevents negativity from escalating out of control.” If we need to, how can we develop these strategies within our friendships?

Forgiveness does not mean you are condoning what your friend did or said, or what happened, or didn’t happen. It doesn’t mean forgetting either or that you have to go back to the friendship. It might be part of the letting go process in a friendship.

Forgiving is for ourselves, not for the other person. Holding onto a hurt or a grudge can turn into bitterness and can become toxic within ourselves. It is for our own mental and physical health that we forgive ourselves and others.

The process of forgiving is owning what is our part in what happened. What is our role in what unfolded and how do we make amends? It takes courage to let someone know you have been hurt.

In his book, Forgive for Good: A Proven Prescription for Health and Happiness, Fred Luskin delves into forgiveness in all kinds of relationships.

“Forgiveness helps people control their emotions so they maintain good judgment. They do not waste precious energy trapped in anger and hurt over things they can do nothing about. Forgiveness acknowledges we can’t change the past. Forgiveness allows us not to stay stuck in the past.” ~Fred Luskin, Forgive for Good

While there is no *right* way to forgive, here are some guidelines:

  • Be genuine: apologize from the heart.
  • Be clear with your boundaries: in other words, be clear about what is OK and not Ok with you.
  • Know your own hot buttons.
  • Consider and share: how are we going to go forward differently?
  • You might want to write your very personal, raw, angry, unfiltered rough draft of your perspective. Do not send it. Keep writing and rewriting until, perhaps, you have words you can share with your friend.

It can be humbling and healing to forgive. It takes courage and self-awareness to acknowledge and accept our own flaws. Embracing our differences and understanding that conflict offers us opportunities to learn about ourselves and our friends.

1Perhaps we can imagine that forgiveness is a suspension bridge that keeps the lines of communication open and allows us to see each other more clearly.

“Forgiveness is the feeling of peace that emerges as you take your hurt less personally, take responsibility for how you feel, and become a hero instead of a victim in the story you tell.” ~Fred Luskin, Forgive for Good