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Tips for Stressful Election Conversations

By Lauren Krouse

Whether you’re talking with family members who disagree with you or friends who can only think about the worst-case scenario, election conversations can be super stressful. Use these tips to stay calm and feel confident and comfortable in your conversations.

Check in With Yourself

Before you enter a conversation, ask yourself if you’re in the emotional headspace to have it. Are you feeling stressed out, on edge, or angry? Are you prepared to have a healthy debate or do conversations around this topic tend not to go well? If you’re feeling weighed down with election stress, it might not be the best idea to talk about politics right now. Be honest with yourself about your needs and make a decision with your best interest in mind.

Stick to Your Boundaries

If you feel like you’d be better off not having an election-related conversation, be honest and use “I” statements to express your boundaries. You could say, for example: “This conversation is really challenging for me, and it’s bringing up a lot of feelings. Can we move on to something else?” or, “This is a difficult topic for me, and I’m not up for a debate right now. Can we talk about something different?”

Enter Debates With an Open Mind

The best way to discuss politics with someone you don’t agree with — and avoid anger over politics — is to start the conversation with curiosity and respect, rather than defending yourself or trying to persuade them. It’s common to feel judgment, but it’s important to put those feelings aside and remind yourself that this person has their own life experiences that inform their perspective, and it’s worthwhile to listen.

Keep in mind that it’s unlikely you’re going to change their mind, but you could learn more about their perspective and find ways to understand each other better. Use prompts such as: “Can you help me understand the way you think about this?” or, “How would you describe your perspective on X?”

Remember the Value of Your Relationships

If you feel yourself spiraling over a conversation with someone you disagree with, remember the connection you have with that person. Even though you’re talking about something divisive and important to you, your love and care for them is bigger than that. You want to preserve the connection and someday understand the person, even if you can’t right now. Keep the door open for understanding, which could even mean taking space from the relationship for the time being.

Take Care of Yourself

If a conversation becomes unhealthy, disrespectful, or hurtful, walk away. Name-calling, yelling, and personal attacks can be deeply harmful, and no one deserves to be treated that way. To take care of yourself after a difficult interaction, lean on restorative self-care practices such as a brisk walk, breathing exercises, or a grounding meditation.

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