Can you be friends with someone who has opposing political views?

There's nothing wrong with healthy debate, but what if it goes too far?

Friends and relationshipsCurrent issues
By Parent Zone ·

Solomon

Solomon is on a gap year after finishing school. He tutors in maths and English and plans to go to university in September.

Disagreement is fine – it’s how you talk to each other that matters

As someone who has only just reached voting age in the UK, I feel it’s now important for me to be as politically aware and informed as I can be. However I wish I’d started learning more about politics sooner.

Given how much the UK’s political landscape has changed over the last several years, most noticeably with things like Brexit and party leadership changes, I wish I’d developed my own views well before I could legally vote.

We’re part of a generation in which our support is valued very highly by all kinds of political parties. Whether you can vote yet or not, we’re the next set of people that will make major decisions to do with our country.

This makes creating your own political opinion a very important aspect of growing up today. But just like every other opinion you develop throughout your life, you will always come across people who will disagree with you.

This can be a particularly hard pill to swallow amongst friends. Differing opinions (especially if they’re strong ones) on which party should run the country, which policies are positive and which are negative can be really divisive issues within a group of politically aware friends.

Here’s my advice for dealing with opposing political views within a friendship.

First of all, just like with every other kind of opinion a friend may have, it’s absolutely fine that you disagree with them.

You probably already disagree with them on loads of other things; from the kind of music you listen to, to the TV shows you watch, to the things you like doing at school.

These opinions don’t change the fact that you’re friends with them, because (to some extent at least) you understand that they think differently to you and you respect that fact about them.

I think politics can be thought of in the exact same way. Just because a friend supports a different party or person to you doesn’t mean they’re this horrible monster, trying to destroy the world – we’re all just unique, and that can even be what makes a friendship wonderful.

That’s not to say that politics can’t affect friendships negatively. Most notably in my life, I had a very intense and continuous argument with a friend about politics, specifically about issues of antisemitism within the Labour party.

The fight over this issue was spread over days of passive-aggressive texting, with links to all sorts of articles flying all over the chat box, both of us trying to prove that the other was wrong. Not a fun time for either of us!

This experience made me realise that I needed to change my idea of talking about politics, especially with friends. Rather than trying to convert my friend to the ‘correct side’ of our argument, I should’ve spent more time listening to what they had to say in a calm and collected fashion.

As tempting as it was to lash out and oppose and argue, the whole conversation could’ve been a positive and educational experience if I’d just respectfully listened and discussed the issue.

I think this is the key to politics not damaging a friendship, respect. If both you and your friend are willing to listen carefully to one another and present your views as your views and not the ‘correct view’, then you have the recipe for a really interesting and constructive conversation.

At the end of the day, the most important thing that should change you or your friend’s political opinions should be the actions of politicians.

I’ve found that if you keep that in mind, talking to a friend with a different view to you can be way more worthwhile than talking to someone with a similar view to you.

Just make sure to keep a clear and level head and you could learn something new about your closest friends!