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When Politics Divide Relationships

When Politics Divide Relationships

The 2016 presidential election was historic in many different ways, and a decision of this outcome has left many relationships strained, perhaps even damaged. Modern politics can be much more damaging and invasive, particularly in the age of “fake news” and social media. Because of that, it’s easy to create your own echo chamber that solidifies your own personal beliefs while leaving you closed off to other opinions.

So what do you do when that divide invades your relationship?

When two dissenting views clash without any doors cracked open for outside perspectives, people can take it personally, and it can trickle down into other areas of the relationship.

Assess the Damage

With the election over, it’s time to assess the damage and consider where you may have caused harm in your relationship:

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Disrespect: Did you ever talk to your partner in a disrespectful way? This includes shouting, interrupting, or deflecting/blaming rather than actually listening to their point of view.

Minimizing: Did you ever minimize your partner’s opinion by refuting it through emotion? This is different than debating with facts; in these instances, you’re dismissing a point of view simply because of the subject matter.

Accusations by proxy: Did you ever accuse your partner of being prejudiced in a certain way because of their candidate’s’ perspective? The “Blame Game” immediately puts people on the defensive, and loading up accusations rather than discussing the issues rationally.

Ganging up: Did you ever call out your partner among like-minded friends or family to put them in an awkward situation? This creates an us vs. them mentality that only widens gaps between people.

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Healing Wounds

The first step in healing wounds caused by the election is to look at the points above and consider which ones you may have inflicted upon your partner. The second step is to apologize — and really apologize, not a mere “I’m sorry” but a thorough apology that acknowledges what you did wrong, why it hurt them, what you’d like to change, and if you can have their forgiveness.

Emotions are still running high from this election. The days following the election have shown us that, from media coverage to social media discussions to petitions circulating the Internet. At some point, you’ll probably want to hear your partner out as a means to take the final healing step. This may or may not be the right time to do it. The best way to assess that is to ask your partner if they’d like to talk about it.

Further Discussion

This election highlighted many issues, from social/cultural to economic to foreign policy. Just because the election is over doesn’t mean that the discussion will stop. In fact, given the reaction to the outcome and the overall inflammatory nature of the campaign, chances are the main players and primary issues will continue to be in the spotlight until at least the mid-term elections, and at that point, things will begin pointing to the 2020 campaign.

In short, this will probably come up again between you and your partner. So how can you have an open and constructive talk without descending into division? Consider the following steps to a healthy discussion:

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1) Stay respectful: Never raise your voice, call names (to your partner or your partner’s views), mock, or interrupt.

2) Ask for facts: If your partner cites something that doesn’t sit right, don’t immediately demean it. Instead, cite facts. Tangential to this, there has been much discussion lately about how social media puts a spotlight on clickbait and “fake news”/propaganda. A suggested bonding experience is both sides as a couple researching “fake news” and how to better get facts into the discussion.

3) Keep an open mind: Everyone has an opinion. However, while a two-party system often creates a presentation of binary thinking, the truth is that social and economic situations are infinitely more complex. Don’t just listen to your partner, consider what they’re saying. Even if you disagree with them, search for the one or two elements that you do agree with and start by discussing that.

4) Present your point of view with empathy: Saying that rust-belt workers are hurting or that women face everyday misogyny might be accurate but it’s a clinical description. Instead of presenting it that way, try explaining the person behind the statement. What is at stake when rust-belt workers can’t find jobs? How do women feel when casual misogyny impacts their everyday lives? By putting your partner in the shoes of these examples, it becomes much easier to see.

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Remember, you’re in a relationship because of love, not division. A healthy discussion over differing opinions is good in any relationship. However, if this divide has grown too wide because of politics, please contact a licensed marriage counselor to discuss it — there may be underlying issues causing your relationship to fracture.

Featured photo credit: Nick Fuentes via flickr.com

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

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