By Jamie Lindsey
Just about everyone has been there — coming to the realization someone close to you or someone you see on a daily basis (who you might really like!) turns out to have a very different political ideology than you. (Shocker, am I right?)
Not only do their values differ, but some have a tendency to shove their beliefs in your face any chance they get. It’s incredibly annoying, mostly because I don’t recall the last time someone told me about a change of political heart they had after the annual Thanksgiving argument. Or I have yet to meet anyone who changed their political party because someone was screaming in their face and trying to make them feel stupid. No matter what side of the political spectrum you lean toward, there is no doubt that someone in your life is going to disagree with you and begin to antagonize you because of what you have come to value. I, personally, have used many different strategies to avoid political confrontation, not because I don’t think I have anything to say, but mostly because the people with whom I disagree politically will never, under any circumstance, sway towards my side. And in other instances, a disagreement arises in settings where it’s just not appropriate or wise to have a political debate. That’s not to say that I haven’t had wonderful political discussions with people who may value a different side of the spectrum than I identify with, but I tend to know what strategies to use with certain people and when to take a deep breath and just let it go.
Before I go further, I’d like to make it clear that the tips below are for those mind-numbingly pointless political arguments with regular people about the news of the day that are born usually out of sheer boredom. If you are interacting with a Neo-Nazi or other extremist, by all means cut ties immediately and end the friendship. Also, if you are white, you have a moral obligation to call out racism when you see it. Know your boundaries and when to draw the line.
There are many different types of political antagonizers, ones I experience every day, who run the gamut of people from work to people in my family. So I thought it would be a great idea to share my knowledge of strategies on how to deal with these certain types of people to save your sanity.
- Agree to Disagree
I tend to use this method in political discussions, when the conversation doesn’t seem to be progressing in a way that will end in agreement. This can be an effective way to end an antagonizer’s agenda without a full-on fight. When you agree to disagree, it creates the perception that their opinion still matters, it’s just one that you don’t necessarily agree with. Which is NOT a bad thing. Agreeing to disagree is what drives political conversation and agenda. This has been a useful strategy to use when I want to discuss politics, knowing the person may not agree with me (or vise versa).
- It’s Not Your Business
Some people go out of their way to ask your opinion about something when you offered no solicitation that you wanted to have a discussion. You are never obligated to give your opinion about something if you choose not to. You have every right to keep your thoughts to yourself (I wish a lot of people would). Your political views do not need to be discussed if you don’t want them to be. So you can simply tell the antagonizer that your thoughts are NOT their business. And leave it at that.
- Hit ‘em with Facts
I know several people who are very informed and intelligent about politics. If you want an antagonizer to shut up, have a civilized debate with them and hit them with solid facts. You know why you lean a certain way on the political spectrum, and you know why you value certain things. Many people have no problem telling others how they feel about policy. I encourage you to always be true to yourself, and if people want to argue with you, let them, so long as you actually have facts to back up your argument. Even though they may not change their mind, you may shine a light on a new perspective by offering facts they may not have considered.
- Don’t be Offended
Many people on the opposite side of the political spectrum than you may try to use words or phrases that are meant to be offensive towards you (*cough* e.g. libtard, snowflake). An antagonizers goal here is to make you feel “less than” so you may eventually end up like, “Wow, I don’t want to be seen as THAT kind of person.” Please remember that this is the only defense mechanism that they probably have. I, certainly, am not offended when someone tries to use my political view to offend me. I brush it off and usually laugh, knowing that they don’t have the guts to debate me but would rather use language to offend me. In the non-political world, this can be considered bullying (using offensive language against someone different than you for the purpose of trying to make you feel bad.) Ignore it. It doesn’t hurt my feelings and it shouldn’t hurt yours.
Remember that politics doesn’t have to make or break friendships or family relationships. It may cause tension, but in my family, I tend to ignore the remarks. I love my family even if they value different things than me. Political differences in relationships is not something new or uncommon. It happens, and instead of playing into the agenda of the person antagonizing, you can use some strategies that have been mentioned. They may be more useful than you think!