How to salvage a relationship divided over politics | Ask Kelly

A flag blows in the wind

Dear Kelly,

The other night, me and my roommate got into a debate about politics and the upcoming election. This debate turned into an argument very quickly, and now we’re not talking. This is someone I not only live with but am taking classes with. Is there any way to salvage this relationship without compromising my beliefs?

It seems like over the past few weeks, this election has caused tempers and stress levels to be high, and it seems like everyone is on edge. When it’s over, I hope the people on the winning side are humble and gracious, I also pray the people who supported the candidate that didn’t win remain positive and honorable. To be completely honest, while these candidates we support or oppose can effect change throughout our country, our community is more affected, I believe, by how we choose to conduct ourselves. Yes, our vote matters, but so do our actions, our choices and how we treat one another. Beyond what happens in the election, gracefulness, tolerance and peace play a far more important role in the areas that hit close to home.

Like this reader, in the past, I have lost friends because we didn’t agree, not just about politics but on other topics as well. Because I can’t control anyone else’s feelings or decisions, I had to decide what my role was in causing the dispute and what my responsibilities were in trying to salvage the friendships. I reached out to those people and tried to mend what had been broken; sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn’t. It hurt my heart that I lost friends simply because we disagreed. I asked myself, “Would you still be this person’s friend, regardless of whether we see eye to eye?” The truth was, yes. Life is short, and while I respect these individuals enough to give them their space, in my heart and mind, if they wanted to mend the relationship tomorrow, I would totally be open to it.

You can’t change what happens in this election after the votes are counted, but you can decide whether this relationship is valuable enough to fight for. We are all different and must remember that a person’s values and convictions come from their own backgrounds and experiences and from their beliefs and their heritage. Just as you are firm in the way you believe so is your roommate. Honestly, this isn’t something to fear, reject or attack — it’s something to embrace. No one says you have to agree with everyone, but you can learn from them and accept who they are based on the fact that we all are human.

For the most part, examine the relationship and try to determine why it is that you aren’t talking. Is it simply because the two of you are on opposite sides of the political coin, or could it be that each of you feel a little devalued because your values and beliefs weren’t reciprocated and instead were attacked or debated? Could it be the issue you are having with one another lies more in the way you spoke to each other rather than just with a difference of opinion?

If this is the case, then I would recommend asking your roommate to sit down with you, and the two of you talk it out but from a different perspective. Rather than saying why you feel you were right and the other person was wrong, and rather than saying politics just shouldn’t have been discussed, do what you should have done in the first place: listen. I don’t mean to just sit there and hear what your roommate has to say. Really listen to what they mean. While it may not be enough to encourage you to change your views, you may begin to understand why they feel the way they do, and you may begin to respect it, even though you may have a difference of opinion.

As Mercer University students, we are challenged with changing the world. With so much division and animosity in the world right now, what better way to change the world than to learn how to listen, accept, and create an environment that fosters tolerance, respect, and understanding?

You and your roommate can salvage this relationship, but it will take work on both of your parts. You will need to learn to listen without anticipating your response. You will both need to learn to accept each other’s differences and show compassion and empathy toward one another. It is OK to agree to disagree, knowing that your root values and convictions lie in your background and experiences. Furthermore, you must agree to look more for common ground, bringing to the forefront the things that unite you. Be respectful of each other, be kind and remember that you share common goals and ambitions. After all, I believe both of you wants the world to be a better place, and you must remember, that doesn’t begin in the White House. It begins when we decide to be the light that shines in our own communities, when we treat each other with love and respect, and when we learn to be tolerant of things we may not understand.

As always, I wish you health, happiness and continued success throughout your journeys.

Do you have a question about coping with school in these challenging times? Each week Kelly Browning, an early childhood education/special education major and student ambassador at the Henry County Regional Academic Center, answers questions from the Mercer community. Email her at or fill out our online form to submit your question anonymously.


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