DISCLAIMER: This is not a political post. You don’t need to worry about differing opinions or heated discussions or hashing things out in the comments. Because this is a “how to deal” post. The online world has more than enough conflict and nastiness, and we moms certainly don’t need more of that.
But it is impossible (unless you live in a very homogeneous circle of people) to ignore the fact that our nation seems to be very divided in how we view ourselves and those leading America. You may find yourself on the opposite side of a growing political divide from some of your coworkers or loved ones. You may be connected with people on social media whom you’ve suddenly realized enjoy engaging in heated discussions. If that is your thing, we are not here to criticize. I am a firm believer that my experiences and beliefs are my own but that I should also be mature and willing to hear from those who disagree when they are able to have a respectful and honest exchange. However, if the idea of a political debate with your relative(s) makes you want to crawl under your duvet with a bottle of wine, it is totally understandable.
So in an effort to carry on as moms with dignity and class, here are five tips to help you navigate these rough waters:
1. Be choosy about when to engage. It’s not just a matter of who, but also when. Consider the person making the comments and the place. Is it really going to help to reply in anger or haste? Will this person misinterpret your answer or truly be open to hearing the other side of the story? If you know that these discussions tend to get emotional, make a rule that they are not appropriate for when kids or guests are around. If it is on social media, think long and hard before you say something you may regret later. There is not an “online version of you” and a “real life version of you.” If you wouldn’t say it in front of your boss, grandmother, or neighbor, maybe it just doesn’t need to be posted online.
2. Give others the grace of assuming they have good intentions. Someone who does not share your priorities is not automatically a bad person. An issue of utmost importance to you may be number five on that person’s list. The one thing that is a total deal-breaker to him/her may be something you can live with. You may even agree on a problem but just not the best way to solve it. But it is always going to offer better odds for success if you begin with a foundation of mutual respect. Both people probably genuinely believe they are well-informed and care about the welfare of our country, and neither side thinks of others as intentionally hateful. When you look at others, try to do it through a lens of grace first.
3. Don’t antagonize on the hot button issues. If you know that your spouse is completely annoyed by a certain news show that you like, don’t blare it during dinner. If your brother gets crazy when you share posts related to a specific politician, just skip it for today. In the grand scheme of things, you can still consume news and satire without feeling the need to share it with everyone in a massive public way. Choose a few friends to email the link to or just find a quiet time to watch the show you enjoy on your own. Don’t disrupt the harmony of the day over something that is inconsequential in the long run.
4. Why unfriend when you can just unfollow? Did you know that you can limit what shows up in your Facebook newsfeed without completely unfollowing someone? You may have a loved one who drains your positivity. If this person tends to share stories from a particular source of which you know you’re not a fan, you can click the little downward arrow and then select “Hide Post.” Then Facebook will ask if you want to see less of the person who shared the post or the source he/she shared from. This is a great option for when you still want to see someone’s family pictures and funny stories but you know the particular source he/she is sharing from is unreliable or simply not your cup of tea. You may also decide that you still want to be online friends with a person but you don’t need his/her daily posts to show up in your newsfeed. If you unfollow, you can still view his/her page by searching for it at a later time, and your friend won’t be notified of the change.
5. But don’t hide in your bubble! If you only insulate yourself with like-minded people, you may be missing out on a credible story from a different perspective. It may be hard to hear from a person who has a completely opposite life experience than you do. It is challenging to remain open-minded when you know you have opposing views, but giving others the respect of listening (rather than just anticipating when you can give your opinion again) is a sign that you are truly seeking wisdom. There are tons of ways you can connect with people of different races, backgrounds, and opinions. Whether it is via church, an exercise class, a volunteer group, or even an interesting lecture, seek out ways to learn and grow as both a mother and human.
It may seem easy to get caught up in the negativity of so many different issues. Our emotional energy is already in high demand as moms. While I don’t want to downplay the importance of the issues nor people’s feelings, I am making an effort to utilize these strategies for the foreseeable future. I want to be intentional about how I get involved in politics in truly effective ways. How are you bridging political divides that you encounter? I would love to hear new ideas from your experiences!