How to Navigate Friends and Family With Different Beliefs and Opinions

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Turn on the TV, read the newspaper, hop onto social media, and you see opinions blaring back at you.

People more now than ever not only have opinions and beliefs but are willing to share them whether you agree or not. It really has turned our country upside down. The “Unfriend”, “Unfollow”, and “Block” button, have become many of our best friends. I see so many longtime friends and relationships end over something posted on social media. So what do you do? Turn off the TV, close the newspaper, and take a break from social media. Even after that we still get to deal with “real life.” It’s hard to escape friends, family, and coworkers with different opinions and beliefs. 

Are you willing to listen to this person? In my recovery, the biggest thing I have had to learn is how to keep internal peace. I might think I am willing to listen, but the hamster wheel in my brain will be going a week later over a conversation. I remember every single word that was said in a conversation and attach a feeling to it. Then I become angry, mad, sad, depressed, and bitter pretty quickly. Before starting any conversation I ask myself two questions: What is my intention? What is my expectation? I have to recognize that just because I want to say something, doesn’t mean it is the right audience. Am I speaking to make a point? Am I speaking to just be heard? Am I speaking to be accepted? Unfortunately, during this time the answer can be no for many people we speak with. Others might not want to hear your point. Some are so passionate about their own opinions and beliefs that anything steering away from that is impossible. Recognizing that some people won’t listen can help save energy for yourself.

We can’t avoid conversations with certain people. We also are not going to agree with everything anyone says. It is important to remember to respect people’s opinions and feelings. A person might have a thought or belief based on personal experience or belief. We should listen to the feelings they have and understand why. Even if we don’t agree with them we can let them have a platform to speak on. Hopefully, this can open up the conversation for both sides to give their point of view in a respectful way. I have learned so much in my recovery from listening to other people speak. I try to listen to “feeling” words to relate and reach a common ground. If something doesn’t jive with you, and you can’t hear anymore, ask if you can change the subject. Let them know that you just don’t want to talk about the topic anymore. If they can not respect that, remove yourself from the situation. Have different topics in mind in case you need to change the subject. 

It is impossible not to know someone with different ideas and beliefs. It is also impossible not to have a conversation with some people. Remember the most important thing is to keep yourself present and at peace. You are in control of your actions and words. You have the ability to “unfriend”, “unfollow”, “block”, and physically leave a conversation, that interferes with your peace of mind. 

Chris McMullen is an advocate for the LGBT community, sexual assault awareness, and recovery. He uses his own experience, and wisdom as a platform to help others.

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