In your relationships, how do you vote?

During this highly conflicted presidential election, I’ve been reminded of a situation between my strongly Republican mother, Lorraine, and my equally strong Democrat brother-in-law, John.

My parents had both been staunch Republicans all their lives when my sister, Susan, married John, a dyed-in-the wool Democrat. And…. Susan and John came to live in the same house with my parents!

It was several years ago, at the time of another Presidential election, when John wanted to put up a yard sign for his favorite Democrat candidate. This was really hard for my mother, who worried that our neighbors might mistakenly think she supported a Democrat. But, in my family we respect each other’s right to disagree. Building and maintaining good relationships holds a high value in my family, so, Mom told John he could post the Democrat yard sign.

Now, what do you think my mother did? Did she make a point of telling all her friends and neighbors that she disagreed with that candidate? Did she immediately post an opposing party yard sign?

No, she didn’t. Her belief was like that famous quote: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

My mom wanted to respect John’s yard sign and his political position, even though she didn’t want his candidate to win the election. Her priority was to maintain a good relationship with John; it was more important to her than which candidate might win the election. But, of course, she still planned to vote for the Republicans, while the Democrat sign stayed all by itself in the front yard…. for a couple of weeks. Then it mysteriously disappeared.

At first John was angry, because he thought Mom had taken down his sign. He hadn’t been in our family long enough to know that we would never break trust with such a lack of integrity. In fact, the very next day, it was my mother who went to the Democrat headquarters to get a replacement sign. And she re-posted it in the yard.

I share this story with you, because the principle of respect for others, even though their opinions may differ from your own, is a key to building and maintaining trust and long-term, happy relationships. If you have been allowing disagreements over politics (or any other subject) to create distance in your relationships, then take this opportunity to change. Instead, use this election as a time to practice finding ways to stay connected with others. Like my mother, give the relationships in your life high importance, and you will gradually create greater happiness in your life. In your relationships you can make a choice to “vote” for conflict or for connection. Yes, you can!

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Has conflict over differing opinions been a challenge for you? Do you catch yourself wanting to “win” more than you want to build your relationships? I would love to hear your thoughts, so please post them below!