Election season is fraught with strong opinions and conflicting belief systems. Friends and family commonly engage in interpersonal conflict over political beliefs during this time, and while some political conversations may lead to positive outcomes, they often result in frustration, irritability, disappointment, and rage. Interpersonal conflict often has a negative impact on mental health, but how do we manage this impact during such distressing times?
Setting boundaries with others is an important interpersonal skill at all times, but it can be especially important around election season. It’s optional to engage with others in conversations about politics, and sometimes, all it takes is setting a firm boundary to opt out. This can be as simple as stating, “I know we tend to argue about politics, and I really don’t want to go there today. Let’s make an agreement to not talk about the election.”
Social media is a common battleground for duking out conflicting political beliefs. If you have a friend or family member who is sharing an opinion that causes you to feel frustration and rage, you are entitled to set boundaries around this type of content. You can use “block” features so that you are not inundated with articles or opinions with which you vehemently disagree. You always have the option of “unblocking” someone once election season passes.
If you do engage with others in conversations about politics during this time, try to develop a stance of natural curiosity. People are much more likely to get defensive or shut down if they can tell that you are trying to change their mind. Inevitably, this leads to conflict. Curiosity on both sides allows everybody to safely share their beliefs and may lead to more productive conversations.
This post is the second in a series of three.
Bethany Kriegel, LMHC, earned her master’s degree in mental health counseling from Boston College. She has experience working with adults in residential treatment settings, helping those struggling with eating disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder, among other issues.
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