Election year in America can become a tense time for family and friends. Politics become a topic of conversation and opinions are shared widely on social media. The 2016 presidential election was a tough for many. The race between Clinton and Trump brought about divisive rhetoric and unprecedented conflict. Since that time, the past four years have be fraught with events that have tested each American’s mental health.
Once again we are in an election year. This year the landscape is similar, however the heat in the pressure cooker is turned up. The COVID-19 pandemic and racial injustice has led to increased stress and concern. The constant onslaught of news is harmful to your mental health. In social circles, sensitive subjects of systematic racism and healthcare systems are being discussed. It is no longer acceptable to not have an opinion on the current events.
As conversations increase, we question our ability to navigate tough topics. Often, we are told to start conversations at home to make a difference. Effective communication is more important than ever. We want our point to be received and to remain open to discourse.
Boundaries let people know what is and is not okay with you. You are worthy of setting boundaries and you get to do this whenever you want! The key to setting boundaries, especially with politics and social justice issues is practice, practice, practice. Welcome dissonance but not disrespect.
It’s possible that you are open to discussing politics and enjoy a lively debate. This could be your time to shine! Even when welcoming a conversation, you can set the boundary that you welcome dissonance but respect must be displayed.
Respectful behavior during a debate includes:
- Allowing one person to finish talking before speaking
- Keeping your voice at a conversational level
- Respecting space- for Americans that’s typically at least 4 feet
- Making eye contact and refrain from eye rolling
- Ending the conversation if either party says that they no longer want to discuss it
- Refrain from using curse words or insults to shame the other person’s character
Who? When? How?
It is not always an appropriate time to engage in a heated discussion about politics. The time and setting of the debate should be considered. Arguing via social media is not an appropriate place for a debate.
Again I repeat- social media is not an appropriate place for a debate.
Additionally, arguing after ingesting alcohol or other drugs is not productive. Substances lower inhibitions which could lead to an increased risk of disrespectful behavior being displayed. It is also recommended to refrain from having intense debates right before going to bed. Conflict, even when done so respectfully, increase cortisol levels which interfere with sleep.
Avoiding Arguments About Politics
Conflict can be helpful and can lead to people learning more from one another. Arguments often lead to each party digging in their heels and becoming more stubborn about their position. If you notice either party is becoming defensive, first observe this aloud. Naming the tension that has increased can help allow each party to address their emotions. If either party is unable to calm down, choose to end the conversation for now. Make sure to acknowledge a time when you’ll revisit the conversation. Conversations are better received when each party is calm.
Try the following to avoid arguments and end the conversation:
“I would rather not discuss this any further.”
“Let’s agree to table this for a little while until we can both calm down.”
“I’m not in the mood to talk about this right now. I’ll let you know when I’m feeling up to it.”
You are not alone in your struggles with mental health due to the political climate and social injustice. This is a challenging time and for some it maybe easier to navigate than others. If you or a loved one needs some additional support, reach out and get started now.