How to Love Your Friends Even When You Disagree
I’ve been lucky enough to live all over the United States. Over the years I’ve kept in touch with some amazing friends from all over, some even from other countries. This means that I have a lot of friends who hold different views from mine. There are so many benefits to having a community of people with diverse views, but this can become a source of conflict if you don’t know how to handle it effectively.
In this time of political, social, and economic upheaval, it’s important to know how to love your friends, even when you disagree.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy, a type of therapy created by Dr. Marsha Linehan, heavily emphasizes dialectics. The idea of dialectics means that two things that seem opposite can be true at the same time. Dialectics teaches us that we can see a single situation from multiple viewpoints. Seeing the “gray area” in this way allows us to avoid “all-or-nothing” traps that polarize us. Instead, we can honor that someone’s viewpoint can be valid, even when it differs from our own.
Honoring the truth of both sides of a conflict does not mean that you’re selling out on your values. It simply means that you understand the complexity of human thinking and behavior — that you can wholeheartedly disagree with your friend, and love them at the same time.
Get in touch with your shared humanity
When I’m angry with someone, the last thing I want to do is remember that they’re a human just like me with flaws and that I love them anyway despite those flaws. But often, that’s exactly what we need to do when we disagree with people we care about.
When we acknowledge our shared humanity with someone we disagree with, we can remember that we are both human beings: human beings with flaws, who are probably both just trying to live their best life.
When we disagree with someone, instead of moving away from them in anger, we can acknowledge the disagreement, while moving towards their hearts.
Don’t lose sight of the real goal
When we argue, it’s so easy to let the need to be “right” eclipse our other, more important objectives — to keep the relationship. If your priority is to stay friends, you need to keep this goal at the forefront of your mind. Don’t get sucked into the allure of arguing for the sake of arguing or trying to change the other person’s point-of-view.
When we want to keep the relationship, Dialectical Behavior Therapy suggests that we act in a way that keeps the respect of the other person. Ask yourself, “how do I want the other person to feel about me after the interaction?” and “what can I do to keep this relationship?”
Keeping friendships is hard, especially when you and your friends disagree on fundamental issues. But you can take action to love your friends, even when you disagree.
Move away from black-and-white thinking by acknowledging multiple sides of the situation. Remember that your friend is still your friend — a human with flaws, who you love — even when you’re frustrated with them. And don’t lose sight of what brought you together in the first place — your relationship.