How You Can Repair Relationships Damaged By Trump Politics
“We don’t get harmony when everybody sings the same note. Only notes that are different can harmonize. The same is true with people.”
― Steve Goodier
On January 6, 2021, I posted about my sadness seeing Trump supporters storming the Capitol while carrying the stars and stripes. A relative who is a Trump supporter seemed to feel I was questioning her patriotism. I was glad that she let me know rather than just being upset about it. We need to communicate if we are ever going to repair relationships.
As a counselor in training, I work on relationships and communication issues every day. I feel that anyone can use the same principles I discuss with my clients to help repair relationships that have been damaged during the Trump presidency. Since most of our current interactions are occurring online due to the pandemic, I focus on online responses.
Relationship conflict resolution
You can find relationship conflict resolution tips in many textbooks, literature, and online sources such as TherapistAid.com. The site offers free information with some paid options and is an excellent resource for mental health. I’m using some of their tips as well as some of my own.
Focus on the problem, not the person
My problem with the Capitol breach was the desecration of symbols of our government and the threat to human life and the peaceful operation of democracy. Many Trump supporters feel that their voices were not heard, and that’s why the protest was necessary. Focusing on how we feel about these problems rather than directing our anger at individuals is a start.
Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding. — Albert Einstein
Use reflective listening
Reflective listening involves listening to what the other person is saying and then signaling understanding by restating their point. The idea is not to get caught up in getting your point across but to understand the other perspective.
Restating or repeating isn’t as necessary online since you have a visible reminder of what was said. The problem I frequently see is people responding to a point with a completely different argument. Instead of becoming defensive, follow up with questions to help you understand the other person's issue. Once you understand their point, you can respond with additional points.
Use “I” statements
Starting a sentence with “you” may immediately put the other person on the defensive. For example: “You never listen to me!” could be replaced with “I feel you are not hearing me.”
Using “I” statements in an online setting involves making sure you describe how you are affected by the problem. For example: “I feel you are blaming me for all the problems you have with my candidate.” or “I’m hurt that you use the term “all” Trump supporters since I don’t agree with everything that is happening.”
Look for common ground.
Rather than focusing on the differences, find an area of agreement. There is a lot of disagreement in politics, but in the end, we have online friends because we have some connection with them in real life. Focus on this connection, not the differences.
Know when to take a time out
No rule says you need to respond to someone immediately. If you feel you are responding in anger, take a break. Another idea is to write out your response offline and then take a break. When you come back, you can re-read what you wrote and see if you still agree with it.
Taking a time out from social media is an excellent regular practice. Try limiting yourself to checking in just a few times per day or skip a day altogether. Restricting your social media time may even help you see how the negativity is affecting your overall mood.
Agree to disagree
Most people are not going to change their beliefs over one interaction. If we can agree to disagree, we can focus on rebuilding our relationships. I’m not saying this will be easy. I have relationships to rebuild too. For the sake of everyone’s mental health, I think it’s vital that we try.
Thank you to Karin Tamerius for inspiring me with the article below. I put my spin on it, but I think her words are powerful!