Q: Help! Some of my closest friends and family members are choosing to vote for another candidate than I am. I don’t want to lose close relationships. How do I handle this? —Samantha from Westlake Village
A: Sometimes it can be very challenging to talk with others who hold differing political views, especially when those views are expressed in, shall we say, passionate ways. We’ve all seen discussions turn personal and ugly when it comes to politics, whether it be on the nightly news or on social media sites.
What we like to tell people is that even though it can be difficult, approach each conversation with grace and humility. It can be very easy to get “hooked” by inflammatory words or opinions that we strongly feel are wrong or exaggerated. But rather than letting others’ words get the best of us, it would be wise to be a good listener, and see if there are any points where there can be agreement.
Being a good listener is not just letting them talk but really trying to understand where the other person is coming from and what personal experiences in their lives have impacted their belief system. Learning how to be empathetic to others’ point of view takes self-discipline and self-control, but working hard to really HEAR the other person, and not become defensive, is the quickest way to diffuse a potentially volatile conversation.
Q: I am finding myself very concerned about this upcoming election and the effect that it might have on the future of our country. There is so much division and hostility already, and I don’t know how to handle my fears about the candidates or the reactions of angry people. Please advise. —Brandon from Thousand Oaks
A. We are seeing so many people in our practices who are more afraid for our country than ever before. It can seem like the whole world is out of control, particularly if we have a steady diet of political and upcoming election news.
Try to limit your exposure to news, talk shows, social media, and even discussions with others regarding the election, otherwise anxiety can really increase.
When we ruminate over our fears of bad things happening, we are like a parked car revving its engine…over time it will overheat. Channeling our energy instead into positive action can help us to feel more in control. For instance, volunteer some time advocating for your candidate or write opinion letters for your local paper or distribute materials so you don’t feel so powerless.
In addition, If one has faith in Someone or something greater than ourselves, it can be helpful to put our trust there and know that throughout history there have been ups and downs and walking in fear just makes everything worse. Trust that God is still in control, and though there might be a bumpy road ahead, we can know that we will be okay in the end. What we are finding is that those who have a strong faith in God and who hope for something greater at the end of this life seem to be weathering this political storm better than those who are just focused on the here and now.
Rick Shurtz, LMFT, and Karen Shurtz, LMFT, are Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists who practice in Thousand Oaks and work with individuals, couples and families. If you have a question that you’d like Rick and Karen to answer, email them to email@example.com.