With the coronation this weekend, I have been struck by how this day means very different things for different people. Some are ecstatic about this royal event and will be glued to the TV, some will be planning street parties and eating hotdogs under an umbrella, some will be ignoring the whole thing and avoiding central London like the plague, while some are staunchly opposed to this event even taking place. In a recent poll, 64% of people reported that they don’t really care about the coronation, while 46% reported they plan to watch it on TV; interesting how those statistics don’t quite match up! This poll also showed a generational difference, will younger people care less than the older generations.
There are always going to be these national or global media events that bring out differing opinions but it seems to me that these differences are most evident in families. And not just opinions about these big news events, but about ongoing social, political and global issues. It can be really challenging when some of the people you care about the most have opposing views and opinions to you. It can feel upsetting, frustrating, distressing. It can make you feel conflicted. How can they think so differently to me on this but we agree on these other issues? And perhaps more importantly, if they think that then what do they think about me? We might respond to these feelings by lashing out and arguing or by withdrawing and avoiding; every family is different after all.
How can we manage these feelings? How can we find ways to connect? How can we find tolerance and acceptance?
How can you protect yourself?
The first step is to think about how you are protecting yourself. It is not your job to take responsibility for the conflict, it takes two to argue! You are not responsible for anyone’s happiness except your own. In these times of division, when difficult feelings arise, it is helpful to remember to look after yourself and engage in self-care. (For ideas and self-care strategies, see our blog posts from January and February!). Sometimes protecting yourself means ignoring the difference. Sometimes looking after yourself might mean ignoring the differences. You need to do what’s right for you and if that is leaving the room or changing the subject then that is ok!
How to find acceptance and tolerance and reconnection?
- Address the difference – Try calmly describing why you find that opinion hurtful or offensive. “When you say that I feel this”.
- Try to find understanding – Make a conscious effort to try to understand their perspective. This does not mean you have to agree with them! You may have very different backgrounds and experiences that are influencing your opinions; can you find a way to share these with each other? Maybe you could ask them to explain their view? When was the first time they remember thinking in that way? Try to be curious, and remember that understanding and tolerance does not mean accepting unreasonable behaviour. If you find yourself struggling to stay calm, or you want to deescalate the situation, it can be helpful to use ‘I’ statements instead of ‘you’ statements. For example “I just think…” vs “You’re just saying that because…”
- Negotiate a way forward – Maybe you will both have opposing views still, but maybe you can agree that you have an understanding of the different experiences that may have led to those differing views and agree to accept and love each other for who you are.
- Focus on the positives – Once you have come to an understanding, maybe you can think about the similarities you both have or opinions that you do share. Sometimes reminding each other of those things after a conflict can help you to reconnect and come back to each other.
- Deep dive – If you are finding it hard to get to a place of understanding, maybe you could ask to interview them. Ask them about their life and experiences. Ask them to share what growing up was like for them, their first love, their first heartbreak, their first failure, their first success. You could ask them to respond with interviewing you and share your experiences. Acknowledging how different your life and experiences have been can be very helpful.
However you are choosing to spend this weekend, try to be kind to yourself and each other.