Has the polarizing election stressed you out and strained friendships?

Experts share advice on how to move forward


Tips for surviving post-election holiday gatherings

  • It sounds overly simple but, frankly, just don’t talk about it. In this election, it is apparent that people are not only supporting one candidate but are also openly and severely critical of the other. It doesn’t make for great holiday conversation.
  • If someone brings up the election during a holiday gathering, remind that person that it is the holiday season and not the time to discuss politically opposing views.
  • Try to find something positive about the other candidate if discussion ensues. “I understand that (insert candidate) appears as if ______, however, I believe that both parties have the best interests of our country in mind.” After this comment (designed to neutralize emotion), shift the conversation to another topic. Shift to a topic that will engage the other person, such as a question or positive comment about his/her family, life, career, accomplishments, etc.
  • If two people begin to argue about the election results, assertively step in with a reminder that the election is over, there will be another one, and there are four years to prepare for the next one. In other words, shift the focus forward.

 

SOURCE: Genella Macintyre, stress expert and author of “Five Steps to Reducing Stress: Recognizing What Works”

INSIDE

Don’t want to watch the election results alone? Check out our list of local watch parties, D6

Need an escape from the election? Some non-U.S. getaways to consider, D6

INSIDE

Don’t want to watch the election results alone? Check out our list of local watch parties, D6

Need an escape from the election? Some non-U.S. getaways to consider, D6

It’s been a contentious election season, and throughout the course of the presidential campaign many in Central Texas and beyond have been feeling the stress.

According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, Republican and Democrat voters are now further apart ideologically than they’ve been in the last 25 years. And 7 percent of voters, according to a recent Politico poll, have ended a friendship over the election.

When we asked if the presidential election was wreaking havoc on friendships, marriages or other relationships, we heard from numerous readers who have been navigating opposing viewpoints in their own circle of friends or family in different ways.

“They threaten to unfriend me (on Facebook), ask me to delete them and randomly resort to name calling,” American-Statesman reader Carolyn Liles wrote on the newspaper’s Facebook page. “I just laugh at the immaturity and keep supporting Trump/Pence!”

Austinite JoAnn Moran Furner, 60, says she’s been disappointed after some friends and family have turned to personal attacks when they disagree with her on political issues. As a retired librarian, Furner says research and fact-finding are her expertise. When she’d point out inaccurate information, she says some in her circles would get upset at her.

“I noticed the resistance to factual information,” she says. “My conclusion is that (this election is) emotional and some people automatically reject anything that disagrees with what they’ve decided.”

The long election season coupled with the surprising twists and turns along the way have been a recipe for wearing people out, according to author and stress expert Genella Macintyre.

“Under stress, we do not operate from our best self, but are primed (literally) to react,” says Macintyre, who wrote the book “Five Steps to Reducing Stress: Recognizing What Works.” “The fight or flight stress response is triggered every time we hear about, and disagree with, what is happening on the campaign trail.”

After Election Day, though, once all the ballots have been counted and a president declared, can a strained relationship caused by a polarizing political season survive?

Part of maintaining perspective, says David Blackburn, a psychologist at Baylor Scott & White Health, is understanding that even though we don’t like it when we don’t get our way, we can’t control how other people vote. “The only thing we can control is our response,” he says.

Shifting the focus forward starts with yourself, Macintyre says. “If your candidate won, avoid putting salt in an open wound. In other words, avoid the ‘I told you so’ approach.”

Many Americans will be put to the test soon with holiday gatherings that will bring together relatives and friends, including those with opposing viewpoints.

Blackburn suggests managing expectations and perspective before coming together. “Some people anticipate the hallmark perfect Christmas or Thanksgiving, which adds increased levels of stress,” he says. If heated political discussions come up during a gathering, Blackburn says it helps if you and your family have discussed a plan. “Do you have an exit strategy?” he says. “Do you need to limit the time you are there?”

Moran Furner says she has realized that although some of her strained friendships are not worth saving after this election, there are others she’d like to re-evaluate. When thinking about whether to repair some of these strained friendships, Blackburn suggests asking yourself, “Can we still have a relationship even if we disagree politically? Maybe a 10th or less of your friendship is politics, and 99 percent is everything else you enjoy and have in common.”

Macintyre says it’s OK to acknowledge that each of you feels passionately about your political views. It’s also fine to acknowledge there has been tension, she says. But if you’re both choosing to move forward, she suggests, it’s best to “agree to let it go and agree to disagree.”



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