• Keeping Friends

Friends with different political views

Published: June 26, 2016 | By | 21 Replies Continue Reading
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Creative Commons Republic Elephant & Democratic Donkey CC https://www.flickr.com/photos/donkeyhotey/

Is it possible to remain friends with people whose political views and values differ from yours?


Dear Dr. Irene,

Is it possible to remain friends with people whose political views and values are directly opposed to our own? The current political upheaval and recent tragedy in our country seems to be bringing out the worst in some people.

I’ve gotten tangled in political discussions recently with two friends. Both are mothers I met at my child’s former high school. These two women are more conservative in their political, religious, and social views than I am, but we’ve been able to gloss over that in the past. Lately, however, these two friends have gotten even more outspoken about politics and their “family values.”

These two recently invited me out for lunch with them to celebrate a birthday and then they started talking about politics. When I expressed my opposing views about gun control, they got very angry with me and self-righteous. They own handguns (as do their sons) and they defend their right to have them in case someone breaks into their homes. They also rely on their new church/religion to direct them on how to vote in elections.

This sort of thing has been going on with these two friends ever since they joined their new church four years ago. In fact, they insist on praying before we eat our lunch or dinner in restaurants — and I am very uncomfortable with that, for starters. I get together with them several times a year for old times’ sake, but always end up feeling like something is “off” when I do and I would like to back off. Now that our kids are grown, we have little in common but the past.

But this bothers me about myself. There was a time when I was more open and accepting of differing views, generally, but lately a few of my friends in person (and on Facebook) are so angry, rude, and outspoken that I find myself avoiding them. I choose instead to spend time only with close friends who share my values and views — and are not so combative. But I know this is unrealistic. How can I keep the peace without totally alienating friends with different political views? Do I simply clam up about politics and keep my own views to myself?

Signed, Julia


Hi Julia,

Thanks for raising an important question that is probably cropping up for many people these days. Politics and values seem to be so polarized.

Yes, it is possible to maintain friendships with people whose views about politics and religion differ from yours under certain circumstances:

1) If the friendship has a strong foundation based on mutual respect and bonds other than politics, per se, tie you together; and

2) If you can set boundaries and shape the relationship so both friends feel comfortable: You can agree to disagree and avoid hot-button topics that have a corrosive effect on the friendship.

Politics is often based on emotions rather than logic.

Conversely, it can be exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to maintain a relationship with:

  • Friends who relentlessly try to convince you of their position and persist in trying to sway yours;
  • Friends who are tone-deaf, continually belittling or demeaning your point of view;
  • Friends with whom you can’t safely express your views or engage in discussions without the discourse becoming angry and combative.

People of any political or religious persuasion can be rude and/or too outspoken. And social media platforms, like Facebook often amplify these point of views—creating wedges between friends or strangers. If someone’s online rants become too frequent or too infuriating, you can use privacy controls to limit or block their messages.

Getting back to your friendship with these lunch ladies:

Although you had things in common through your same-age children in the past, you say you don’t have much in common now besides your shared history. Having vastly different religious and political views can compound the problem of feeling out-of-sync with them.

Your note made me wonder: Are there any compelling reasons to continue these uncomfortable get-togethers? Are they satisfying in any way?

Looking at the broader issues you raise, yes, it is far easier to insulate ourselves and only stay with people who look and think like we do. But our lives are far richer when we broaden our circle.

So perhaps the key to knowing when to “clam up” vs. when to express your views is to know your audience. It’s hard to have sensitive discussions with people for whom you don’t have trust or respect.

Hope this helps.

Best, Irene

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Comments (21)

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  1. Beverley says:

    I am in the UK, and I had this FB friend who is an American Liberal, we had been friends for over 5 years, he knew I supported Hillary, then he started talking about Brexit, I said I voted to leave, for economic reasons, he jumped down my throat and accused me of being a Trump voter, implying I was racist/homophobic etc. I was upset he saw me this way, and being judgmental on me, a few of my friends also Brexit supporters, were trying to explain how wrong his views were, I even said that I would never vote for UKIP, as a referendum vote is different from a political party, he then blocked me, as I told him not to tar us all with the one brush. I myself find it easy to be nonjudgmental and respectful of peoples views. Had I have known my views would result in the loss of my FB friend, I would not have discussed my views, I never discuss on religion, as that is a touchy subject with some people, so I can now add politics as a subject I dare not talk about, in case in loss of friendship. I do put it down to my FB friend must have been upset at Trump winning, he took his anger/frustration out on me. Up until this election he was an easy person to get along with.

  2. Brooke says:

    To the lady saying this is one sided. Your candidate won. He has multitude cases before him. I’m a republic am but did not vote for him. He is a disgrace to our party. Whatever happened to country over party? I have a close friend that voted for him and I’m still friends with him.. he doesn’t share the same views but he votes republican no matter what. Stop beating Hillary for all the charges that were dropped against her. She was more qualified but sadly not the winner in thr electoral collage

  3. Dora says:

    Hi there! Please allow me to share my experience on the matter you see, I come from the Philippines. Right now, our situation is no different from the United States. Recently, we buried a dictator who to some were deemed as a hero, to others he was a thief, stealing billions and left the Filipinos in poverty (after all, his wife is well-known for her love of shoes and was even a quoted ad by a posh retailer in the States), while to others, in his name were the deaths and survivors of extreme torture during the dark times of Martial Law.

    Now after 30 years of fighting of democracy, we are seeing huge divide in opinions after Ferdinand Marcos was buried in a cemetery meant for heros, soldiers, past presidents of which has left our country with mixed feelings considering most of everyone who experienced dictatorship were either babies or parents, most of the younger generation were not yet born but liberal party supporters twisted the story, still emphasing that Marcos was a monster, yet leaving his former cronies and allies as heroes who absolved themselves because they participated in the revolt 30 years ago but continued to steal taxes of the Filipino people as politicians, 9ne of them even became President of the Philippines and he was the head of the Miliatry during Marcos’ time and even to this day, has never apologized, in fact, he brought back the Aarcos family to the Philippines when they were in exile in Hawaii, and lived off like billionaires.

    Anyway, based from that story alone I too felt isolation from friends of mine whom I’ve known for 25 years. Some of which have made me their godmother for their children. I mentioned before about the youth who have been brainwashed by liberal party supporters who twisted history for the schoolkods and sadly, my friends and I are the byproduct of this bias. Recently, one of my friends was the most proactive of the lot, even spewing out hateful remarks on the current president, blaming him for suggesting to bury Ferdinand Marcos, calling him insulting names online and that just undid me. I called her out on it, and despite how peaceful my defense was, I did not attack her person, only gently reprimanded; but she refused to listen. My other friends, decided to take her side and since our last online spat of me telling my friend to back down because she was disrepectful just showed me my so-called friends’ true colors. Thoiugh I do not see them on a regular or at all, except on weddings or baptisms, etc, it saddens me to know end that differences could not be tolerated. I reason out that my upset on the matter is geared mostly because of my friend’s anger and resentment for the government (knowing that she used to be one of the beneficiaries of the past administration so she is extremely biased), which for me is the ultimate deal breaker. You see, me and my husband are trying to have children and I cannot see any good from receiving such hatred that will stress me during my pregnancy. So for the sake of my unborn baby, I sadly had to cut the cord with 25 years of friendship. I recently removed myself from social media platforms like Tiwtter and Instagram, I already know for a fact that my politically angry friend has blocked me on Facebook and my other so-called friends (two of them) have done the same having used to like my posts and now I receive no likes or comments unless I make a mistake on posting something, that is when their tongues start to wag like the immature brats they are.

    So my advice would be this: Would you feel better if you never had to hear from these people for at least a day? How about a week? Or two? If you answered yes to at least one or all of them, then I suggest you gradually plug yourself off like I did. They are not your only friends and you can make more friends in the future. I have already made friends from my college years and postgraduate studies so why do I need affirmation from them knowing that I feel unsafe with them?

    Hope that helps.

    Always remain happy and positive.

    Dora, the Philippines

  4. cathy says:

    Message to Betty. Thank you so much for your comments. They express just what I feel. I’m a UK citizen living in Europe ….I hate the term expat….I couldn’t vote in the recent referendum but supported Remain. I have ‘friends’ who are quite venomous in their opinions about EU citizens living in Britain little realising I’m in the reverse situation and I feel hurt they can’t see how I could take their harsh words to heart. I don’t feel comfortable being their friend anymore and was shocked at what I thought was my personal overreaction until I read your message and realised I’m not on my own. Thankfully where I live people are very generous in their response to me living amongst them but I on a recent visit back to the UK I found that many people I spoke to on a casual basis didn’t need much encouragement to start the invectives against people of a different nationality living alongside them. My true friends of course are as like minded as me but it’s difficult isolating yourself from those who have a different ‘soul value’. Many thanks.

    [Last name removed by moderator – To protect yourself against Spammers, please don’t use any last names. Thanks! Irene]

  5. Nancy says:

    Dr. Irene,
    Is this the Friendship Blog or the Democratic Friendship Blog? All the posters seem to lean one way and are clearly only interested in their own views, unable to have an open conversation with other people. Politicians on both sides are responsible for the problems in our country.

    I am disappointed to see such one-sided bashing of a candidate by name when the other candidate has so much controversy, scandal, and not to mention being under investigation by the FBI.

  6. lua says:

    I have ended friendships with people whom share different political views. I refuse to be friends with people who believe Allives matter and Trump supporters. It’s bad enough my family is conservative. I don’t have to be friends with conservatives.

  7. Salstarat says:

    I live in Australia and have noticed that our country, like the USA and the UK, are languishing under the impact of extreme conservatism which has polarised political views around the world. Australia which was once the most egalitarian country in the world, has changed significantly under an intolerant, xenophobic, mad, bad and dangerous ultra conservative government (the Liberal/National Coalition) which have done everything they can to try and tear our democracy to shreds. The LNP have provided the notorious malignant Rupert Murdoch with total media ownership which gives them (Murdoch and the LNP) an unrestricted, biased venue to espouse their hate-filled campaigns. The Murdoch/LNP Alliance are now illegalising democratic protest against their lack of transparency and blatant fascism which effectively muzzles free speech! BE WARNED … this will be YOUR FUTURE under the frothing-at-the-mouth lunacy of Trump!

    Australia has undergone the worst three years under the despicable fascist rule of a narrow minded, insignificant British born imperialistic, moronic BOGAN called Tony Abbott whose leadership of the LNP has since been replaced by a smug, corrupt, multi-billionaire neoliberal, Turnbull, who may be slightly more articulate but still shares the same vile views. The LNP (aka Lying Nazi Party) is a corrupt, self-serving government (very similar to the Republican and Tory regimes) who secretly believe that feeding the rich at the expense of the poor will foster a new desperate under-class of people who will work long hours at minimum cost without the protection of unions thus benefiting the richest, most powerful corporate predators in the country (people like the multi-billionaire, non-taxpaying miner, Gina Rinehart). This is the Oligarchical system that is alive and well in the USA … Australia does NOT want to be like the USA – most of us DON’T WANT to live under the horrendous, misguided capitalism of a neoliberal oligarchy – most of us want to be an egalitarian socialist society like Denmark or Sweden. Sadly, however, so many Australians are so apathetic and complacent, they will STILL vote for the LNP because their bloody parents voted for them!

    The mind numbing, bible thumping hypocrisy of the right wing is nauseating in the extreme! Whilst they take their sanctimonious, judgemental stance against anyone and everyone who don’t support their lunatic neoliberal Oligarchical views, the LNP, like George W Bush (and Trump) and the Tories in the UK, maintain their despotic rule by hatred, declarations of war, division, ramped-up terror and relentless fear campaigns, xenophobic racism, ongoing misogyny and never ending remorseless LIES and broken promises. Neoliberal war criminals like George W Bush and John Howard (the then-PM of the LNP) marched ILLEGALLY into Iraq, spent uncounted BILLIONS on war and weapons of war, unnecessarily deposed Saddam Hussein which caused the VOID that was immediately filled by ISIS – this, in turn, has since created the WORST humanitarian crisis since WWII !!! War, hate, fear, division and marginalisation of minorities – these are the things that neoliberal, ultra conservative governments LOVE and thrive on!

    Sadly, it has come to the stage where I cannot bear being in the company of people who, despite all the venomous lies and hate-filled campaigns of the ultra right wing and their adherence to regressive Trickle Down economics, feeding the rich at the expense of the poor and their callous disregard for vulnerable citizens, STILL rush to their defence! Fortunately, most of my friends are caring socialists and I only had a small minority of shameless neoliberal friends. I have since shunned the latter and severed any friendship I had with rampant, perverse neoliberals and have NEVER regretted it! I can no longer be friendly with people who stand up rigorously defending everything I despise.

    We are coming up to a federal election and the only thing that will save us is if the Millenials vote against the appalling, rigid views of the LNP and realise that the Labor/Greens Alliance are the ONLY ones that will take care of our brilliant Medicare system (a system that Obama had the foresight to try and introduce into the USA) and provide our children with a fair, equitable world class education. Education and Health Care should be available to EVERYONE and not just to the richest people in the land!

    Julia, and as for those awful women attacking your socialist values? My advice to you is to DUMP THEM! These women sound absolutely revolting … sanctimonious, confrontational, hypocritical! With “friends” like these, who needs enemies? A good clue as to WHO you should keep as your friends and who you should not is to ask yourself: “How do they make me FEEL after you have seen them?” — if the answer keeps coming up a NEGATIVE … DUMP THEM! It sounds like they are conspiring to denigrate you and make you feel less worthy when, clearly, YOU are the better person! My advice is to go out with them one more time, let them know that you do NOT tolerate their sanctimonious, intolerable views and callous disregard for others and explain that their lack of respect is the reason you will NOT be continuing with what passes for a very one-sided friendship .. with that, stand up, hold your head high and walk away and NEVER contact them again. Good luck!

  8. Julia says:

    Thanks very much, Irene, and to all who’ve commented as well. You’ve reinforced what I feel about these two right-wing friends. What pains me most, is that these two women are very religious, and they have an uncanny way of making me feel “less than” or judged if I don’t share their far-right Christian faith. They are extremely intolerant — as Amy F has suggested in her comment — and I find it harder and harder to “make nice” with any friends who are so hateful toward certain groups of people and have no interest in curbing gun violence.

    Fortunately, I have other good friends who are much more open-minded and respectful, and I find myself gravitating toward them and away from others like the women I mention in the original post. I want to be fair with my friends, old and new, but then again, I don’t want to be miserable in their company, either. Thanks again for solidifying my feelings.

    • lua says:

      For being religious, these women sound very judgmental. If they make you unhappy each time you get together and refuse to respect your point of view, best to lose them. With friends like that, who needs enemies?

  9. DJ says:

    I guess it depends on how opinionated they are and how much they respect your views. When you say I have a different opinion and lets agree to disagree and stay off the topic and how they react to this or whether they take umbrage if you state your opinions as one has every right to when others do would determine whether you’d like to maintain a friendship. And how if their views were implemented impacted on you, for example, Lady V who says that her rights to healthcare, equal pay and so forth would certainly be a determining factor as we wouldn’t feel particularly friendly towards someone that wants things that makes life unfair for us.

  10. Lady V says:

    I’ve gotten to the point where I have little patience or tolerance for people whose political beliefs are the complete opposite of mine, because such views threaten my very existence as a black woman. If someone believes that I do not have the basic right to healthcare, equal pay or some other basic right that white people take for granted, than I simply cannot be their friend as it shows that they do not respect me as a human being. I have ditched several so called friends over the years for displaying racist attitudes and I will not be friends with Trump supporters, because then I know that they believe that I should either be deported, detained or even killed. Broadening your horizons by having friends from different backgrounds and viewpoints can only go so far. To many sane and reasonable whites, Trump is merely a buffoon. To black and brown people like myself, he is extremely dangerous. I fear for our future.

    • LauraSL says:

      Well said!

    • Kris says:

      Well said, Lady V! I agree with everything you said. As a Democrat, I have usually been very tolerant of opposing views, and enjoy the different opinions of my friends as long as they are civil. But I’m finding a huge lack of “civility” lately. The way I see it, too, life is short — and it’s very upsetting to spend time with people who are constantly picking arguments or making you feel judged or inferior for your beliefs. I am usually a peacemaker, but I find that people on the far right are extremely combative, and rude. Who wants to spend time with people like that?

    • Abigail says:

      This is hysteria! Deported back to where? Where are you getting this disinformation? Trump’s concerned only with ILLEGALS particularly those with criminal records and potential terrorists. Which is why he wants a thorough vetting program enforced. What have you got against that? Are you opposed to protecting your borders and your citizens? if you are neither an illegal not a terrorist then you have nothing to worry about.

  11. Betty says:

    I’m reading these responses with interest, as here in the UK we’ve recently voted to leave the European Union. I’ve never felt particularly strongly about political issues in the past, but felt very strongly about this one….that we should remain in the EU. This happened two days ago and I’m still struggling to speak to friends who voted “Leave”. Before this, I would have happily said that this attitude is rather petty. But when it’s something that shocks you to the core and is something that fundamentally goes against what you strongly believe in, it’s really hard. Luckily for me, not many people I know voted “Leave”. But I’ve still got to work out what to do regarding my friendship with them.

    • Whitby says:

      Betty, I hope that you can find a way to keep your friendships going. I’m not trying to judge you – but what follows is a bit of a cri de coeur. I love your country – I visit it 1-2 times a year (and am leaving for a visit in two days). And one of the things that I am finding really upsetting about the Brexit controversy/trauma is the rapid increase in incivility and hostility that I am seeing in the media, on discussion boards, etc. It’s just horrible. Maybe I idealize the British public too much, but I have not seen your country – until recently – marked with the levels of bullying and animosity that I see too often in US political culture. I have found the political conversations I had with Britons really refreshing (even Tories! and that will tell you my own political views), precisely because it is so difficult to have a real conversation about politics with someone with whom one is not in agreement in the US (or at least in my rather conservative, Western neck of the woods). And I have always respected that civility. So I hope you all don’t lose that – or get it back quickly. Anyway, my best to you and yours – I hope the UK pulls out of this turmoil soon.

      • Betty says:

        Hi Whitby – thanks for your response and for your best wishes 🙂 . Just to be clear, I don’t take part in (or advocate) making rude or bullying comments to people (either in person or online) who voted differently to me. I am surprised though, at the strength of my feelings about what’s happened in the UK and am still processing things. The reason this is so difficult is that the “Leave” campaign gave people in the UK who may have racist/xenophobic views, a chance to freely air them. I believe in freedom of speech in general, but can’t stomach small-minded bigots – and racism is the vilest of all vile things. Like the USA, it turns out there’s a large body of people here who do not want any foreigners in the UK (at ALL) and I find this so hard to comprehend. This is why tempers have flared so much and why some “Remainers” can’t accept the referendum result. It’s not simply a matter of a normal election, where one party has won and some of us aren’t happy about it. It’s an irreversible decision that has a) isolated our little country and b) allowed all the xenophobes to now think that their world view is “normal”. That’s why I’m so appalled. It feels as though the UK has regressed several rungs on the ladder of human evolution. Obviously, it would be nice if all of us Remainers could accept that half the country are xenophobes (and that many are also hardcore racists), but when it’s something that so fundamentally opposes your core beliefs, it’s REALLY hard. As I said, I don’t agree with any bullying/unpleasantness by Remainers, and I’m sure those who are doing this will regain their civility at some point. But this is the reason why things have got heated: it honestly feels, from my side of things, as though it’s a fight between tolerance/inclusion/forward-thinking and intolerance/exclusion/backward-thinking. I hope things can settle down soon and I love that you love us Brits…… but I am no longer proud to be British 🙁 .

  12. LauraSL says:

    It’s possible if you have solid commonalities that are not political and you stay off of politics. I do find myself questioning the judgement and values of people that favor the Republican front runner. 😉

  13. Whitby says:

    I think it completely possible (and often a good thing) to be friends with people who hold very different political and religious views. But for me, the keys are acceptance and humility: both participants in the friendship (and conversation) need to accept the other’s views and feelings and not feel the need to insist that their views are right. That includes oxygen-sucking: if someone insists on dominating the conversation by speechifying about the virtues of their candidate(s) or positions, even when they know I’m neither interested or in agreement, I’m outta there. I am happy to respect others’ right to hold their views, but I expect the same respect – and the realization that I am different. I want a genuine dialogue. From your post, it sounds to me like the problem is not that you are less open-minded, but that your friends are more openly polemical and argumentative, despite your own lack of interest and agreement. In other words, they are just being rude.

    Do they ever engage with your opinions? Ask you what you think? Or do they just lecture you?

  14. Amy F says:

    Political views are values and representations of those values and he answer for me comes down to whether or not I can respect the values a person espouses and do they respect mine. I come to the table believing that most people are basically good, and doing they best they can, and that even if my circumstances are more fortunate, I am not better than they are. If someone else believes otherwise, that most people will cheat the system, that people are basically “bad” and that they are superior, we probably lack basic core values. If someone is prejudiced or has negative views about minorities or poor people, I’m not interested even if they are “nice” aside from those political views. Id rather keep my social circle smaller than cringe around someone who sings the praises of Donald Trump.

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