Have you seen the many defriending and blocking of friends that has taken place in the recent past? Add to that warnings of not to discuss anything political prior to family dinners, celebrations, occasions, and parties, and one gets a discouraging picture of the polarization and tribalism in the US and maybe, all over the world.

I don’t want to get into how and why this is happening, but to delve into how we can deal with it without offending our loved ones and creating discord in our relationships. There is no doubt that we all acknowledge there will be differences of opinion. Even visual reality can vary. Remember “the dress”? What color was it, gold or blue? So especially when we come to belief systems, viewpoints, or affiliations, we see that even in the same family, there will be variations. The trick is: How do we express them, and how do we deal with the underlying feelings when someone has another opinion? How do we not feel negative or alienated and intrude into our caring and positive emotions toward that person?

The brain seeks consistency and the psyche does not like conflict, only because the roots of such conflict touch the biological “threat” spot. Watch out for the danger to the self! That part of the brain gets activated just a second before the logical corner jumps in to say, hey, that is not an enemy. For some people, though, that jump takes a while, and frankly, for some, because of other issues, that may not happen. So, we get insults, name-calling, diversions, and distractions. Unfortunately, there are people that are masters of such deviation from the subject. If that is someone close to you, perhaps the solution is indeed to close off a subject, political or otherwise. Personally, I do not believe that what is nasty or rude passes for “telling it like it is.” One can confront another person with civility and respect for the opinions of all. As one wise person remarked, it takes as long to be kind as it does to be cruel. What would it say about us if all we want in our lives is people who agree with us and think similarly? Take a look at your partner, your friends and family. How do you deal with their different ways of thinking and behaving? What bothers you if you disagree? Do you take it as lack of caring and love? Because that does happen. “If you disagree with me, it means you don’t love me.” Common thought patterns, belief systems and opinions do, in fact, oil and make easier all the trials and tribulations of maintaining a relationship. But differing ways make it richer and stronger, and who wants a clone?

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Author Profile

Janan Broadbent, PhD
Janan Broadbent, PhD
As a psychologist in private practice since 1979, Janan Broadbent, Ph. D. offers individual, couples, group and family therapy, in addition to conducting workshops on topics such as stress management, communication skills and assertiveness. She writes about current issues relevant to relationship building and conflict resolution in LGBTQ and minority populations, with emphasis on health, fitness and education.

Born in Turkey, Dr. Broadbent earned her undergraduate degree in psychology in 1965. At that time, first as a Fulbright Scholar, then as a CENTO Fellow, she received her master's and doctorate degrees in psychology and education from the University of California at Los Angeles. She has taught graduate and undergraduate courses in psychology at St.Mary's College of Maryland, Mt. Vernon College in Washington, D. C., Johns Hopkins University and the College of Notre Dame in Baltimore. From 1981 to 1988, she was also the Director of Counseling at Notre Dame College.
While in graduate school, Dr. Broadbent worked for the Voice of America radio program, writing and recording materials on the cross-cultural college experience. She has been interviewed on various news programs on TV and has received media training.
Dr. Broadbent is a member of the American Psychological Association and has served as the chair for the Public Affairs Board and as a member of the Executive Council of the Maryland Psychological Association.
Dr. Broadbent's office is located at:
Village of Cross Keys, 120 West Quadrangle, 2 Hamill Road, Baltimore, Maryland 21210-1847 phone: 410-825-5577