As the election campaign unfolds, conversations about political beliefs and allegiances among friends and families across the UK may reveal some rather divergent opinions. Here I offer my tips about what to do if your friends and family plan to not vote the same way as you:
Don’t avoid the ‘Politics Issue’ – Avoiding talking about politics is the worst approach. Like a fart at a family gathering that everyone can smell, but no-one will own up to, it will poison the atmosphere, knowing you cannot raise the topic for fear of descending into acrimony. If you are highly politically engaged this will prove all the more galling and inexorably, the value you place on the family tie or friendship will diminish over time. Instead, be willing to discuss it. Granted, Uncle Louis’ bungee-jump fun run may be safer territory for the main dinner table topic [disclaimer: the author sadly doesn’t have an uncle quite as exciting as this], but if we are so concerned about ‘echo chambers’ on social media, are we not creating one in reality if we do not seek debate?
Don’t agree for the sake of peace – Just as unwise is to engage in political discussion and tamely nod along with what your friend/family member says, even though you disagree. If you strongly hold a differing opinion, express yourself, otherwise you are effectively employing self-denial of free speech. Also, some of your closest friends and family will know you well enough to read your body language to the extent that you’ll do little to persuade them you really agree with them, anyway!
Do try to seek common ground – Political views can inflame passions, meaning that when discussing politics with someone who holds opposing views, there is a danger of debate becoming heated. The best way to avoid this is to seek areas of consensus. For example, you may differ on Brexit, but do agree that tuition fees should be reduced. In concluding political conversation, emphasize the areas where you find agreement. This will leave your friend with more positive connotations about talking politics with you than negative. At the least you can find common areas of concern, e.g. economy, even if your solutions differ, for being a friend or family member means they’ll share the same social background or some of the same experiences which have shaped your political outlook.
Finally, you may persuade, but don’t persist – Undoubtedly you may wish to persuade your friend to vote the same way as yourself. By all means having understood their reasoning, attempt to re-frame your own political preferences to appeal. However, endlessly besieging them with attempts to change their mind are more likely to place anyone on the defensive and further entrench their political preferences. A gentler, infrequent approach is the optimum way to change your friend’s mind and if it fails to do so, should not lead your friend to tire of your company when discussing politics.
Hopefully, these tips will help you to successfully negotiate through the minefield of newfound political disagreements to emerge with your friendships/family bonds intact, if not enhanced!