How to Get Along with Someone Who Voted for the Other Guy

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

The election here in the US is over, and Barack Obama will remain the President of the United States for four more years. However, we have only to look at the popular vote, which shows just a 2% margin between the “winner” and “loser”, to know that we are a nation divided. I suspect you have only to look at your Facebook wall to see that people in your own world are not only divided, but ready to claw at one another’s eye sockets. How are we supposed to get past all of this ugliness and get along with one another again?

Why should we even try getting along with those people?

Because those people are our neighbors.

In my case, many of those people are my friends and family. They are my people. They are smart, loving, generous, ethical, good-hearted people who have snuggled my children and fed me desserts.

They did not vote with me, but they have ate with me, loved with me, and raised children with me. They have cleared tables and streets with me.

So how do we get past all this nastiness? How do we move forward together?

We listen.

It’s been only in the last few years that I’ve been able to have a respectful conversation with people who have different political ideologies than me. I found myself thinking yesterday how strange it was that I suddenly have so many friends of different political persuasion, but I suspect that’s always been the case – I just wasn’t the type of person to whom her friends would admit that.

As I’ve become a better listener, I have spent less energy trying to convince and more trying to understand.

I’ve learned a lot about myself and my friends in the process.

I know more not only about how my friends vote, but about why.

We look for the best parts of each other.

In trying to better understand, I’ve been asking my friends to tell me what they voted for.

We vote against something out of fear, but we vote for something because of hope.

None of us are beautiful in our fear. Fear distorts us, turns us into snarling, feral creatures that instinctively bite the hands we once held.

Sharing our fearful selves was something once reserved for our most trusted inner circle, people who could see beyond our growling and remember how we looked in the light. And then Facebook came along and we started letting our fear hang out all over the damn place.

I’ve read some of the words of my people during the last several months and have been shocked, stunned that I could love someone who could say and think such nastiness. Who the hell were these people? I wondered.

Then I remembered the thoughts I had when I was most afraid.

I have been ugly. I have been cruel. I have attacked and snarled and threatened and even given in to hyperbole when I was afraid.

It’s what humans do.

We can’t judge each other based only on what we are afraid of.

Ask someone what they voted for, what they believe in, and you will often see the light change on their face. You will see them talk about what they hope for, long for, wish for their children.

Not always, of course. Some people are eaten up by fear and have little hope left in them to share. You may be able to love them anyway, or you may need to let them snarl in their own corner, far away from you. But the majority of us, I believe, have a vision of the world that we’re dying to share, if only someone would ask.

We start with what we have in common.

I’m not naive enough to believe that we all have the same vision, the same hopes and dreams. But at our core, we are more alike than we are different. There is common ground to be found, and it is on that level ground that we can begin to build compromise.

Find one thing.

It may be a belief in equal rights for all Americans.

It may be a desire to improve our schools.

It may be the hope that women and children are safe.

It may be a passion for helping the poor.

It may be an interest in protecting our food source.

It may simply be a belief that the Green Bay Packers are the greatest football team in America.

But there is something. One thing.

And where there is one thing, there will be more.

There are always more similarities than differences, because we are at our core just human beings trying to do the best we can with what we’ve got.

Listen, look, find the common ground.

And you will be able to enjoy Facebook and family reunions again.

(Plus, you know, better world and all that.)

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  1. you spelled steelers wrong.

    :)
    hello haha narf’s most recent post: Adventure in Tahn

  2. Liz says:

    Oh Britt. You’re always so poignant. This made me tear up!

    I’ve been lucky; I haven’t seen any of the ugliness firsthand. I’ve seen some tweets referring to others’ nastiness, though, and I just don’t get it. I love the idea of finding one thing in common and building on that.
    Liz’s most recent post: How Amazon Taught Us That Customer Service is Still Important

  3. Nyt says:

    Now we just move forward. All any of us can do is continue to play the game with the cards we’ve been dealt. I don’t agree with the current administration and I think his reelection is a grave mistake. I hope I’m wrong, but I’ll do what I can to protect myself and my family in case I’m right

  4. Megan says:

    Anything to veer people off “the apocolypse is coming” rhetoric is a balm to my soul. We’re all just people and we really do want the same basic things. We just have to realize that there are many ideas of how to accomplish them, and the best ways require compromise.

    Now if we could just Congress on board with that.
    Megan’s most recent post: Fifty-Two, Week 14: What I Fear

  5. Carly says:

    Beautiful post, Britt!

  6. Hugs (and hearts and flowers and unicorn sparkles) to you. This is lovely and perfect and ON TIME. Thank you. Thank you, again.
    Jet Harrington’s most recent post: you are relevant, just by being alive

  7. Lisa says:

    This is lovely, truly. There has been a lot of nastiness in my FB feed, but I do my best to just keep scrolling. I’m glad it’s over and I hope that now we can move on to bitching about how early the Christmas music is playing in Target.
    Lisa’s most recent post: Adventures in Cake

  8. Kent says:

    Love this. We’ve met A LOT of people with opposing views as we travel around Costa Rica. We actually like it and refer to it as “building bridges” and not just bonding with like-minded peeps.
    Kent’s most recent post: Thankful

  9. Becca says:

    Yes I agree that we need to find a common middle ground. My issue begins when my friends on facebook who are so ugly about Democrats, and President Obame specifically give me a thumbs up for #Marriage Equality when I speak of my hope that my Lady and I will someday be able to marry in Missouri.

    I’m glad they are supportive of my thoughts, or at least say they are. But here’s the thing and I’ve seen it posted in a few places. Most of my republican friends, are republican solely because of the economic benefits gained when republicans make it easier on businesses. So my frustration comes in where those economic rights take precidence over my civil rights.

    In truth that is what matters to them, even though everytime my civil rights are brought forward they are supportive, so long as it does not effect their economic bottom line.

    I just want people to call it what it is, and stop making excuses everytime they cast another vote to support the economy.

    With Respect,
    Rebecca

    • Nyt says:

      Respectfully, why should civil rights issues take precedence over economic issues? As a republican, I am calling it what it is. I agree, that your civil rights are important, but I also realize that in order to protect those civil rights and others, a country must be economically sound. We cannot pay for the protection of, the legislation for, the education about the myriad of civil rights without taxes to pay for it. We can’t collect taxes from people who don’t have jobs, nor can we collect taxes from businesses that don’t turn a profit. It’s that simple and that complicated all at the same time. Republicans get a bum rap because so many of are NOT socially conservative, we are fiscally conservative. Heaven forbid we vote that way though, because we obviously don’t care about anything but the money. It sad that so few can actually see that these issue are actually intertwined..

  10. Jared says:

    Bonding the over how bad the Vikings suck!!!

  11. Poppy says:

    I’m a registered Democrat, happily living with a registered Republican. I used to be very hardcore Democrat when I lived in Vermont. I was very biased against Republicans because that’s how I grew up thinking. But Dawg helped me detox from that extreme way of thinking very quickly, and I am much more open to any politician’s stance on the issues. I did a comparison of the candidates on the issues important to me and chose the best candidate for me based on that information. My friends and family did this too, so of course I still love them and can live with who they voted for. Loved them before they voted..
    Poppy’s most recent post: brag

  12. It can be hard especially when they voted for the other guy because of thinks you sincerely believe in. I’m still struggling with that. I am very prochoice and strongly believe in equal right when it comes to marriage. It can be hard for me to just sit down and have a beer with someone who voted for the other guy because they feel the opposite of those beliefs. Or other reasons grounded in hate like the color of the skin of the President. It can make it much harder to find common ground
    Corey Feldman’s most recent post: Life and general updates, Book Singing, and Readings

  13. Marta says:

    Sometimes I find it just easier to not speak about politics. A good friend of mine voted the complete opposite of me even on a very important amendment. And it’s hard when I think about it to not get mad when I so strongly disagree with his viewpoints. But in the end I think we need to all come together and move forward, because is there really any better alternatives?
    Marta’s most recent post: Thank the Troops

  14. Zenoobi says:

    When my four year old asked me if we lived in a swing state, I felt that it was time for the election to be over. But it made me laugh to think of him conjuring visions of a land of unlimited playsets. :)

  15. Judy Reid says:

    What a great post.

    You are so right that most of those hateful and divisive comments are spoken from fear – and that’s on both sides.

    I’d like think that I’m impartial because I’m Canadian and it wasn’t my election, but that wouldn’t be the truth. I do have my biases but I think that’s ok because I’m aware of them, which I hope keeps me from blindly acting on them.

    I know a little bit about what deep-seated or out-of-control fear can lead to – and it’s absolutely horrifying what human beings are capable of doing to each other when they believe (or convince themselves) that violence is the only option they have to protect their families and their way of life from “THEM”.

    Words have tremendous power, yet too many of us just toss them away without thought, without consideration, without understanding the damage they can do.

    Anything we say to suggest another person is less than human or incapable of behaving with decency, will never, EVER lead to good. Not for anyone.

    Anyway, I didn’t want to sound all doom and gloom – I really just wanted to say it’s a good thing you’re doing (With great power comes great responsibility! And blog posts!). Listening and finding common ground is hard work, but it’s worth it. And it’s definitely needed. NOW.

    Good luck America! We love you!

    (p.s. Nobody calls it Canadian bacon – but we’ll share it with you anyway.)
    Judy Reid’s most recent post: Poppies and Coffee: A Remembrance Day Confession

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