Q: What should you say to friends and family members who say they won’t be voting in the upcoming presidential election?
A: We have two things going on here: a relationship and our own political convictions. Our goal is to navigate this conversation so that first and foremost, we build the relationship and ultimately can share our convictions in ways that feel safe.
One of the most important aspects of a healthy relationship is for both people to feel “seen,” so this conversation has to start with expressing a genuine interest in wanting to better understand your friends.
After we’ve shown that we’ve heard our friends, it’s also important that we feel seen, which includes expressing why we think it’s important to vote. We need to make sure this continues as a conversation, not a lecture, so we need to stop talking and give the conversation back to them by asking a question.
For example, if someone shares that they aren’t voting because they feel their vote won’t change anything, you might respond: “I totally know that feeling: But, if it helps any, to me it’s a matter of practicing what it means to show up in a relationship. So voting is my little way of reminding myself that I need to show up in relationships — this time in my relationship to my community and to our country. It is a small way to symbolically do something that matters to me. If you were to end up deciding to vote, what might it symbolically mean to you?”
SHASTA NELSON, author of “The Business of Friendship”
A: It’s important to do what you feel is right, but chances are we’re not going to convince someone else what they need to do. Some people might be looking for attention and attempting to start a movement among their peers, while others are truly despondent about the choices. Either way, it’s not likely that one conversation is going to change their minds.
But you do have the opportunity to discuss your position. If you feel the need to say something, you can be direct and let them know that their decision is disappointing to you because you know they care about their country and the community. They might be feeling overwhelmed, isolated and depressed.
Remind them that doing something always feels better than doing nothing, and in the end, they most likely will feel better if they attempt to make a difference. But leave it at that. Don’t nag or harass people about their decision. Ultimately, it’s their choice.
DIANE GOTTSMAN, founder of the Protocol School of Texas