Three Ways to Stop the Election from Harming Your Relationships

Zoe Weil is a blogger for Psychology Today, and we share her blog posts here. Enjoy!

I’m writing this post a week before the 2020 U.S. presidential election, during a time in which our country is as polarized as it’s been in my lifetime. Tempers are running high. Political lawn signs are being vandalized on both sides. Relationships are becoming frayed. Ideological differences are creating deep, sometimes intractable, and tragic fissures. Perhaps this is happening to you.

If you find the polarization in the U.S. upsetting, consider that your relationships may represent a microcosm of the country. To heal our country, you can begin by healing fractures with those closest to you, building bridges, and creating meaningful solutions to the problems you collectively care about.

Here’s how:

  1. Recognize the common values you share. Ask the person with whom you’ve chosen to build a bridge what qualities are most important to them. Chances are they will name qualities that are also important to you. It’s highly doubtful that they will say greed, cruelty, violence, or hatred. It’s more likely you’ll both have such qualities as compassion, integrity, courage, kindness, and honesty on your respective lists. 
  2. Ask the person what problems they care most about solving and uncover issues that concern you both. Even if you disagree with the policies and approaches of the opposing candidates, chances are you both want to live in a world in which all people, other species, and ecosystems have the ability to survive and thrive.
  3. Once you have named these commonalities, shift away from arguing about the candidates’ policies and behaviors and work together as collaborative solutionaries to address a problem together. Because you cannot do solutionary work without ascertaining the facts, start by agreeing to fact-check and find evidence for the problem and its causes. Next, seek out factual information to understand the many interconnected systems that contribute to the problem. You’ll also want to identify those who are harmed by and those who benefit from the problem and the systems perpetuating it so you can take everyone’s interests – including other species and the environment – into consideration. Finally, devise a solution that does the most good and least harm for everyone. To the best of your ability implement your solution and share it widely.