5 Ways To Keep Loving — And Enlighten — Your Trump-Voting Friends

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Here are 5 ways I stay calm around them that you can try too ...

These are trying, scary times for LGBTQ people. We are seeing increasing divisiveness. Every day on Facebook I see people blocking and unfriending each other, and I must admit I have done the same.

A lot of this comes from people not hearing each other, attacking each other and not truly engaging in dialogue. Other times it is the only thing to do, and I fully understand that.

Let me be clear: I didn’t vote for Donald Trump. I voted for Hillary Clinton.

My issue is, and always has been, protecting my rights as a gay man.

I have my reasons for voting the way I do, just like everyone else does. However, not everyone is willing to listen to my reasons, even though I remain willing to listen to theirs.

Here's a typical exchange that occurs between myself and a loved one or friend of mine who voted for Trump:

Friend: “Why did you vote for Clinton?”

Me: “Because I have to protect my rights as a member of the LGBTQ community. We now have a president who has chosen to surround himself with people who are anti-marriage equality and pro-“religious freedom” (i.e., the freedom to discriminate against LGBTQ people). He has chosen a Vice President who is notorious for taking anti-gay positions and actions in the past and a Cabinet that's been described as a 'who’s who of homophobia.'"

Friend: “Well, I don’t know about those things.”

Me: “No problem. I'm happy to tell you these things and help you become more informed.” 

Friend: “They shouldn’t get involved in people’s rights like that. They should just stay with what needs to get done.” 

Me: “Well, they are getting deeply involved with people’s rights ...”

Sadly, this is where the discussion usually ends, leaving me feeling as though my concerns have been dismissed as unimportant.

For eight years under the Obama administration, the LGBTQ community felt hopeful that long-standing discrimination in regard to housing, the workplace, the marketplace, adoption, schools, and more was finally beginning to fade away — and that America was shedding its prejudice.

Now we are reeling in fear and disbelief.

"Trumpatized," as some are calling it.

Yet I've even spoken with people in the gay community who themselves voted for Trump.

They chose to focus on issues of economics and the need for a radical change in politics as a whole, while selectively ignoring the unbridled undercurrent of hate riding into office on Trump's coattails.

So how do we avoid being swept up in panic and divisiveness, endlessly frustrated by fruitless attempts to point out to others how wrong and hurtful these views and actions are to us? How do we find hope amid the darkness?

In therapeutic practice, especially in couples’ therapy, we employ techniques for dealing with seemingly intractable differences and opposing viewpoints.

Here are five methods you can practice immediately to engage in constructive conversations about the issues you hold close.

1. Understand differentiation.

The first method is a psychological term and process called “differentiation” I often use when teaching couples and individuals how to deal with someone who doesn’t agree with them and how to live with these differences between them. This isn't about collapsing one’s viewpoint into the other’s or insisting someone comes around to yours.

In every relationship, there are differences. If we care about each other, the question becomes, "How are we going to make this work?"

As I said, I have friends I dearly love who voted for Trump, and I am not willing to throw those friendships out because of it. There is a line, however, I will not cross. If the relationship becomes abusive and someone begins attacking or minimizing my views and concerns, that is entirely unacceptable.

We all need to maintain healthy boundaries, and in order to do so, you need to know where your own line is.

 

2. Practice active listening.

Most of us converse within a monologue, not a dialogue. We are not willing to hear the other side when it doesn’t agree or align with ours.

Active listening involves really hearing what the other person has to say and trying to understand them without thinking about correcting the other person or about what you are going to say next.

If there’s one thing we should have learned over this past impassioned election cycle, it’s that arguing via competitive fact yelling and bluster changes no one’s mind. If we’re going to be in a relationship with someone else, we must be willing to let things go.

When we listen deeply to that someone else — and in turn are listened to — we begin to get a glimpse of the person inside who is still our friend and loved one.

 

3. Learning to quiet your inner child and call forth the adult inside of you.

Politics and the way people react are deeply personal. And if you’re self-aware, you've realized that you have many people living inside of you.

For instance, you will sometimes find that you react to someone as if they were a parent or family member who didn’t validate you. Your defensive child has come out, still frustrated over not having his voice heard.

You may also react due to unresolved issues you with a former friend or partner.

This is when you need to put your therapeutic hat on and ask yourself, “Why am I having this reaction? Am I perhaps trying to resolve something from my childhood?”

Your 8-year-old inner child is not up to this challenge. In such moments, you need to call forth the adult in you, the one who cannot be diminished by another’s viewpoint, the one who can stand tall in his own convictions without having to defend them or futilely try to convince another person. In this persona, you can realize this is the other person’s issue; it’s about them, not you.

Chances are if someone senses you sincerely want to know what makes them tick and why they feel strongly about something, they are going to see a person in you that they can live with or appreciate.

That’s how differentiation (above) works.

 

4. Be clear about your personal limits in tolerating differences.

This is a personal step to take and I cannot tell you where your line is or should be.

For me, right now the line is if a person puts down my decision, attacks me, or minimizes my choices. I do not do this to others and I expect that others will not do this to me.

I understand that, for some people, just the choice of voting for Trump is enough to break off ties with another person.

My thoughts are to at least try to understand where they are coming from by hearing them out. Then ask the same from them. If they are unwilling to either hear you out or to agree to disagree, it makes sense to take action by letting them go.

It is abusive of someone to try to control your reality and forcibly change your opinion when you've been clear you do not want them to. 

 

5. Get politically involved through volunteering, peaceful protesting and other empowering actions.

Finally, when your feelings of fear and frustration threaten to overwhelm, I recommend becoming politically active. Getting increasingly upset from reading and talking about what is going on and doing nothing about it is unhealthy and paralyzing.

Doing something — anything — can help.

After the recent women’s marches, women who'd been feeling "Trumpatized" and discouraged expressed the powerful healing they felt joining together with their sisters and marching for their cause.

Get involved in organizations that fight for what you care about.

Being active isn’t achieved by blocking someone on Facebook or sniping at those whose opinions drive you crazy. If you’re only getting information and opinions that fit into your bubble, you are further fostering the divisiveness that is sickening our culture ... and your own psyche.

Of course, some people are toxic and should be avoided, but most are not. Stay open to possibilities of connection while remaining aware of and honoring your boundaries.

 

We must remember that though things look rather dark as of now, the truth is we don’t know how things will turn out.

We may not be able to affect many of the scary things going on out there today, and they may end up being resolved in ways we can’t foresee.

What we can affect immediately is how we deal with others and how we care for ourselves by seeking activities that will ameliorate our fears.

These are the battles for which we must reserve our energy — battles we can actually win.

 

This article was originally published at The Huffington Post. Reprinted with permission from the author.

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