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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Making New Friends

Have you ever met someone and felt an immediate “like” connection — that insta-click? Maybe you have experienced a sense of understanding and mutual appreciation with someone, bordering on the familiar, as if you known each other all your lives despite only just meeting.

The beauty and mystery of making new friends is that it can happen anytime and anywhere, through pure chance or planned intention.

Why is it important to make new friends?

Friends make our lives richer: they laugh with us, they bring lightness and joy to our lives, they listen to our stories and stresses, and they spend time doing fun things with us. Friends know us personally and can be our advocates and power of attorney when we are ill.

Sometimes we do lose friends as we move through life transitions — relationships, health, career and residential — so it is important to continue to make new friends throughout our lives.

Friendship takes time and effort. First, to meet new people, then to get to know each other, see if you have enough in common and if each person wants to continue to create the friendship and finally, to build and deepen it. Establishing strong friendships, moving from being acquaintances to new friends to good friends, takes time – months and even years.

“The best time to make new friends is before we need them.” ~ Ethel Barrymore

What do you need to make new friends?

The act of making new friends requires different ingredients. Here are a few possibilities for what we need to make new friends:

  • openness on both people’s parts,
  • common values, interests, and/or humour,
  • cultivating interesting and engaging conversations,
  • taking action like getting together outside of school, work or whatever brought us together,
  • continuity and reciprocity, inviting each other out or over,
  • courage and vulnerability, a willingness to make it known that you want to be friends with this person,
  • strength and flexibility, moving through life together, through the good times and the bad times, and knowing that we will show up for each other and be understanding towards one another.

So where do we make new friends?

Becoming friends certainly seems easier when we are young and attending school with 30 other kids five days a week, or when we spend many hours daily at our workplace working together with colleagues.

Regardless of age, making new friends takes courage: to get out in the world, to put ourselves out there, and to take emotional risks. Social media and technology can be great ways to connect with people and initiate new acquaintanceships. Trying new experiences, going to new places, being open to learning about a meaningful subject matter are all opportunities to meet new people. And not unlike dating, making a new friend requires that we be vulnerable to the possibility that our attempt at kindling a new friendship can result in rejection, hurt, or disappointment.

“There are no strangers here; Only friends you have not yet met.” ~ William Butler Yeats

Six steps to making new friends:

  1. Step into a positive mindset – one that is open-hearted, open minded, friendly, warm, kind, humourous, good-natured.
  2. Step away from negative self-talk – about how hard it is or why it is not worth the time to bother meeting new people and making friends.
  3. Step out there – go to (new) places or events where you can chat with people, do things with others, or create something with other people.
  4. Step into conversations about issues or topics that are meaningful, fun or important to you, e.g. human trafficking, politics, yoga, StarTrek, the latest gadgets, race horses, etc.
  5. Step up the invitations – invite a new or an old acquaintance to join you for an event or activity.
  6. Step into vulnerability when you feel ready and share something personal about yourself — about your family, your childhood, your history, your background.

Are there any other steps you might add to the process?

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” ~ Dale Carnegie

Questions to ponder:
When was the last time you made a new friend? How did it happen? What did you do to make it happen?
When do you consider someone or call someone your friend?
What are some ways you can make new friends?
What attitude or perspective is helpful for you to make new friends?
What information about yourself are you comfortable to share at the beginning of a friendship?