Anna Schultz-Best Friends Walking

My Best Friend & I Have Different Political Views, But That's OK

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

I met my best friend in fourth grade. It was a time of pigtails, lip gloss and Hannah Montana. Nothing could divide us, and our biggest problem was multiplication. But as we grew up, math equations fell to the back burner and the reality of living in a country of red and blue (and no in-between) took center stage.

It’s not rare to find friends divided by their differences, and these divisions seem impossibly reconcilable. With that in mind, I asked myself, “Is it possible to have a substantial, healthy friendship with someone who differs from your political views?” Yes. I know this because my best friend and I have been doing it for over a decade, but it takes a willingness to make it work.

Address life experiences

As I thought about the ways my best friend and I cope with our political differences, I decided to ask her thoughts on how we manage. She responded with, “We are able to address our life experiences.”

Doing this is arguably the most pivotal point in coping with varying political views. When you and your friend are able to address your life experiences, you are able to evaluate scenarios such as how you grew up, who you were influenced by, where you are now and so forth. With each answer comes clarity for the reasoning as to why you each believe what you believe, as personal opinions are crafted from personal stories. 

Along with addressing both of your own upbringings and current places, you are able to address privilege and setbacks. 

This New York Times article addresses a similar approach, and as a social experiment placed a diverse group of people in a room. Within that room, they discussed varying political differences but were also encouraged to talk about their reasons for holding such views. The central goal wasn’t to shift political preferences, but to provide perspective and insight into each belief and person.  

Each of your personal stories create individual realities which transform into political beliefs. When you are able to listen and see where each other's views come from, you address that neither one of your realities are less than.

Put people first

I see my best friend as family, and a big component of that means putting our relationship before all else. If I say something that isn’t kind, I go back and apologize. If she makes a decision I don’t agree with, I support her as best as I can. No matter what happens, we try to put our friendship first –– and politics shouldn’t dismantle this.

Putting people before politics should be a constant when coping with political differences. When you choose to put people first, you acknowledge their humanity. This shifts the tone you respond with, the time you take to hear the other person out and the overall approach to the situation. But when you put politics before people, it morphs into a dog-eat-dog circumstance. The political debate turns into a ruthless right or wrong state of affairs.

I’ve experienced this with past friendships, as they’ve shut me out because they disagreed with my views. Disagreement should be acceptable, but when you stop seeing the person behind the perspective, it turns it into an attack rather than a chance for discussion. 

When successfully coping with political variances, my best friend and I strive to keep the importance of one another at the forefront.

Agree to disagree

I’d be lying if I said my best friend and I have only experienced smooth sailing when it comes to politics. In fact, people have asked each of us, “How are you friends with one another?” Sometimes it comes down to agreeing to disagree.

Disagreement doesn’t have to include a negative connotation. Disagreement is simply an opportunity for conversation where both individuals have a chance to gain insight. However, disagreement can sometimes lead down ugly, harsh paths. When this is the case, agreeing to disagree is the healthier option. Elicia Dover, an ABC News reporter, addressed this in a Teen Vogue article released around the 2012 election. "When talking politics with anyone, if the conversation ever becomes volatile and you get to a point when you can tell that you're not having fun anymore, it's a good idea to stop, agree to disagree, and move on," said Dover.  

Agreeing to disagree may be difficult because of pride or strong, rooted beliefs. But if you acknowledge where your friend is coming from and that your relationship is more important, it should put things into perspective.   

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