Huw Le Lytle answers all your questions in his column of wit and wisdom, For the Asking!
Huw’s for the asking!
BY Huw Le Lytle
Q: Dear Huw, my friend and I are very close but we disagree very strongly on politics. In the past year this has got very bad indeed. I cannot understand how they can think the way they do. But I am even more worried I will lose my friend. What can I do? – Anon – USA
A: Dear Anon, you are not alone in your worries. In the past year I have seen a lot of people fall out over politics. I have even heard of families unable to sit at the dinner table together. The world is very volatile right now and so, more than ever, everyone needs to find the ways to communicate with each other. You are obviously good friends, and it would be a terrible thing for something as elusive as political debate to cause that to unravel.
In a way, talking politics is a little like learning. The important thing about learning is to be enthusiastic and curious about things. To pay attention. I like to think of it like this. It might be appealing to try and get your friend to change their mind. But, as you may have experienced, constant campaigning actually just leaves both “sides” numb and immovable. It’s a bit like a dog that “shuts down”.
This can happen with training that might rely too much on punishment and curtailing natural behaviours, rather than engaging with a dog’s natural talents, curiosities, and motivation. With this kind of training, when a dog does something the person doesn’t like, the person does everything to take away every option other than the one they want the dog to take. This might be by punishment or restraint or whatever, but the point is that whatever is achieved is achieved by putting the dog under duress.
But is that really engaging with someone if you are giving them little option but to do what you want? Is that communication? Dominating someone so that they stop expressing the unwanted behaviour (such as your friend talking about politics) will not change their mind about their politics. It just stops them talking about it with you. Or if it’s in social media, they just unfollow you, or unfriend you. The point is, your friend won’t learn anything except how to avoid you.
But if you look to see how you can communicate with your friend then they are more likely to engage with you and that is when real exchange of ideas can happen.
I think people and politics might be a bit like cats and dogs. I don’t expect cats to act like dogs before I can enjoy their company. I don’t blame the cat for not being a dog. Instead, I am curious about the cat and what it’s like to be a cat. So now I do some cat things (like nuzzling and head bumps) and they do some dog things (like wrestling and even sofa zoomies!).
But I have a disclaimer. If your friend doesn’t like dogs, none of the above applies. You need a new friend … I’m just kidding! Ha ha! But all jokes aside … making a joke, twerking in the park, or doing a quick play bow and some zoomies can also defuse a tense situation. And how does it do that? By engaging the pal in play! By communicating!
Good luck with your friend. Friendship is precious. Never stop paying attention.
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