The Importance of Learning to Get Along with Friends Who Disagree

Many people today are avoiding talking about the election. In fact, some people have lost friendships and relationships over their different political viewpoints.

While at a luncheon not too long ago, I observed the way the room divided along political lines, people gravitating to like energy to support and substantiate their political positions. At this particular event I watched close friends engage in long and painful arguments as each side tried to persuade the other. One of my friends told me that she has decided to block friends and relatives whose Presidential choice was different from hers on social media.

How We Cope

Believe it or not, all of these behaviors are in fact coping skills, aimed at reducing stress during a very contentious political season. However, these stress reduction techniques may not, if fact, be the most healthy or productive coping mechanisms. For if we are going to solve the problems facing our culture, and learn to live together in peace and harmony, we must first develop empathy for one another – regardless of conflicting cultural ideas, points of view, or political philosophies.

Fostering Empathy

Freud once stated that the cost for civilization is neurosis. Meaning, that for humanity to live together, we must collaborate. It has long been accepted that role modeling – “walking a mile in another’s shoes,” for example – can foster empathy. Using my Empathic Process can help you communicate with others with compassion, understanding, and respect. By valuing and validating another’s perspective, you can both invest in the process of problem solving, and collaborate for a transcendent idea, that compliments both of you.

Through empathy you can accept others as they really are, not what you want them to be, without trying to change them or create someone who reflects you. This is how to connect to others in a healthy way. On the other hand, if you continue to deliberately block others who disagree with you, and unfriend them on social media, then you are not, as Freud suggested, constructively co-existing, but rather, in a state of avoidance.

Benefits of Using My Empathic Process

By using my Empathic Process you can dialog with others, despite your differences, no matter how passionate or provocative. This affords you the ability to understand the “Other,” giving you the ability to collaborate, compromise and problem solve.

My Empathic Process can help you overcome the tension of polarization and bias. For when you are prejudiced by bias, all outside voices and all forms of media become selective, as you choose that which serves your agenda. This is how you strengthen your own assessment, while discounting those you oppose. Further, because all humans struggle daily with feelings of annihilation, you tend to socialize, with others, who are like you in ideological culture and philosophy. This offers a certain comfort zone for you and others who share your view of eternity.

However, it is important, as a member of society, to not only familiarize yourself with your ideology, but to acknowledge and recognize that of others. There is a great danger in believing that everyone thinks, acts, and feels the way you do. To not recognize your differences, is to put yourself in the fog of familiarity, and this is how the seeds to oppression, and ultimately anarchy, are sown. Yet through empathy, you can reduce the need for projection, which gives you the opportunity to know your friends more intimately… and is a safety valve for the isolation that can lead to aggression.

To be able to hear your voice, in mutual discourse, helps you learn a little about yourself. This is a way to know yourself, and to recognize your projections…and if those projections are highly charged they may reflect your bias. Now you can challenge your own concepts and ideas, while testing yourself against your environment. Then perhaps, you might recognize a place where you and others can meet, noticing that in many respects, your thoughts and ideas are more alike than they are different.

If however, you isolate yourself from people, who have different opinions, you not only close down any possibility for common ground, but also for mutual conversation and understanding.

So what are some steps you can take toward open, empathic, and mutual communication? In my next blog post, I’ll share some helpful tips that you can use in your relationships with those friends and family members who have opposing viewpoints.