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Politics Are About to Get Worse—Here’s What You Can Do

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July 5, 2019

The election cycle has officially begun! Hopefuls on both sides have confirmed their intention to run and the first Democratic debate for the 2020 election is already being dissected. While it’s important that we gain insight into the candidates before casting our vote, we all know how volatile and mean-spirited this time can become.

In the workplace and in social circles, we used to be able to turn away from heated discussions and sharing political (and religious!) views was often discouraged. Today, social media makes that next to impossible.

We know more about each other than ever, and our timelines are often filled with posts from people enthusiastically sharing their perspective. During an election cycle, it can all become overwhelming. In fact, it’s not uncommon for this dynamic to impact relationships and end friendships. If you’ve been feeling anxious that things are already starting to heat up, here are a few suggestions for what you can do.

Don’t Engage

When you’re scrolling through social media and see something that makes you angry, you might be tempted to jump in and voice your outrage. This is your right, of course, but think back to any time you’ve done this before—did it turn out well? Probably not.

There’s nothing wrong with being passionate about your views, however, the online environment might not be the best place to get your point across. Make an impact in your community by volunteering or getting involved in local politics. What we do in our neighborhood can have a ripple effect. Don’t ever underestimate how much you can truly make a difference—in person.

Show Respect

One of the biggest reasons why arguments escalate is that we all want to be right. The reality, though, is that we have no idea if the beliefs we hold are truly better than anyone else’s. Being dismissive or critical won’t make anyone want to listen to what you have to say.

It can be difficult, but try to show respect by giving others an opportunity to speak and really considering their perspective. Ultimately, you may still disagree but you might also learn something.

Find Middle Ground

Once you’ve heard each other out, you might be surprised to discover that you share some similarities. You might be on two sides of an issue, but if you’re both concerned about the quality of education in this country, for example, you can find a middle ground.

It’s okay for two people to have different opinions about how to resolve a problem—what matters is that they care about it. When we shift our thinking away from being “us” versus “them,” and realize that many people on the other side are just trying to do what they think is best for their family, it can help us feel empathy and kindness toward each other. Harboring hate and resentment helps no one.

Take a Breather

When things get rough during the election cycle, and they usually do, it’s okay to tap out for a while and regain your sanity. It feels as though the political insults and negative campaigns have worsened over the years, which can take a toll on our collective mental health.

It’s not worth fighting with people, especially strangers online, about any of this. You want to be heard—and that’s understandable—but social media probably isn’t the best place to seek validation. When things become unbearable, deactivate accounts, delete the apps and decompress. You’ll feel a lot stronger after a healthy break.

At the end of the day, after the candidates have been torn apart, someone will be elected and we’ll all have to live with it—and each other. How we behave in the coming year can make a huge difference to an individual and in the lives of those around us. Be mindful. Be patient. Be kind.

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