Help! How Should I Respond to My Friend’s Pro-Trump Meme?
A good friend of mine posted this meme on Facebook recently. She follows Fox News, Breitbart, and all the other conservative news outlets. I don’t want to lose her as a friend, but it’s killing me to ignore it. What can I say that won’t offend her?
In these polarized times, being true to your political beliefs while maintaining close friendships with people on the opposite end of the political spectrum can be a challenge, especially for those of us on the left. One 2017 poll from Pew found that nearly half of Americans who identify as liberal Democrats said it “would strain a friendship if a friend voted for Trump.”
It takes a great deal of emotional maturity to be able to separate your feelings for your friend as a person from your feelings about her political beliefs. And it takes considerable skill as a communicator to be able to advocate for your beliefs while simultaneously letting your friend know you value and accept her just the way she is. Kudos for being willing to make the effort. It bodes well for you, your friendship, and the future of the nation.
My recommendation for responding to this meme, and for engaging with your friend on politics more generally, is to think long-term. Your goal shouldn’t be to persuade her in a single, intense dialogue, but to have a gradual conversation that spans years. Think of each interaction as a micro-dialogue that will lay the foundation for future micro-dialogues that will snowball into a powerful change conversation over time.
Here’s how to begin. The key to any persuasive conversation, no matter how small, is to remember you can’t change someone else’s mind. All you can do is help them change their own by providing a safe conversation space where they can explore and reconsider their beliefs. It’s a subtle, but crucial difference.
A lot of people believe there’s no point in responding to a meme like this. I disagree. The trick is to be strategic in your response. The problem most people run into is that they get caught up in making an argument or start hurling insults. That’s always going to backfire.
Instead, I’d say something like this:
Hi [Name], you and I disagree about Trump, but I still love you as much as always. Maybe sometime you could tell me a bit more about where you’re coming from on this so I can understand better. Talk soon!
This approach is effective because it…
- States your point of view honestly
- Makes your friend feel safe by sending a clear message that you are not going to attack her or her beliefs
- Strengthens your relationship by reiterating your affection for her
- Opens the door to a dialogue in which you will listen to what she has to say
- Doesn’t pressure her to respond if she doesn’t want to
It’s possible that your friend won’t say anything in response. It’s also possible she will use your invitation as an opportunity to launch into a lengthy diatribe against the Democrats or an ode to Donald Trump. No matter what happens, consider it a success. You’ve stated your beliefs honestly without harming your relationship. That’s always a win. Plus, you’ve now set the stage for a long-term conversation that has the potential to produce real change.