Dating and Relationship Advice

There’s a lot going on in the world right now. Around the country, people are grappling with hot topics like the Covid vaccine, mask policies, abortion, racism, and climate change. When discussing controversial issues with your friends and family, it can be difficult to learn that the people you love and care about have much different beliefs than you do.

I was always aware that there exist people in the world who disagree with me, but I previously thought of them as the “other.” Naively, I equated them with stupid aliens to be scoffed at, scorned, and questioned from a great distance. They weren’t supposed to be close to me—especially members of my own family!

I love these people. I want them in my life, so it’s not like I can blow them off or alienate them. At the same time, I can’t allow myself to sit in silence, lest they think I agree with them. What the hell do I do?

I’m not writing these tips from a confident place of I Have All The Answers, but to make sense of my emotions and shed some light on the dark, windy path ahead of me (and maybe you). The last thing any of us needs is to lose our families over an argument.

Begin With Empathy

No matter how respectful everyone is, discussing hard topics will always stir up heavy emotions. It's important to acknowledge others' feelings by building the conversation on truth, transparency, and empathy.

That means empathy for other people as well as for yourself. How do you want to feel about yourself after the conversation? Let that guide you.

Honesty Is Still the Best Policy

It is super scary to be honest with your loved ones when you know they disagree with you. But it’s better to be honest and give them the chance to surprise you with love and support than to let the negative feelings fester.

Listen

Is it fun to listen to people argue against what you believe? Hell no. But if you want them to be open, tolerant, and even sympathetic to your beliefs, you have to be open, tolerant, and sympathetic back. Instead of immediately reacting with judgment to their opinions, listen to what they have to say from a place of empathy. Don't punish them for being honest.

Don’t Try to Change Their Minds

“When looking at areas of difference, push past the surface level talk and get down to why people feel the way they do," says Dr. Jacob Goldsmith, a clinical psychologist at  Northwestern University. "Through repeated conversations, we come to understand how and why people believe what they believe, and through this mutual understanding, we feel closer in spite of our differences.”

As much as you want to change their minds, you probably won't successfully convert your loved ones to your position—and you might come across as a dick when you try too ardently to do so. Go ahead and tell them how you feel and why you feel that way, but make sure to choose your battles. Some just aren't worth the fight.