Up until a few months ago, a friend of mine and I used to have discussions about politics and that sort of thing. It started out pretty friendly, and it wasn’t taken too seriously by either of us.
As we went on, however, we found that our views were pretty opposed, and sometimes the discussions would get a bit heated, with me sort of egging my friend on a bit. After a while, we kind of stopped, but not for any spoken reason, although I think it’s because we just kept feeding off of each other. I think we still are friendly, but it seems like things are different.
I’m beginning to wonder if the political discussions we had have hurt our friendship. Should I apologize to him?
It couldn’t hurt. The worst you risk is your friend saying, “You take this way too seriously," or "I had no idea you felt this way." If you feel these debates are impacting your friendship, he probably feels the same way.
You couldn’t have asked a better person than I about this. I love to debate — with friends, with family, and online. I enjoy passionately engaging in these debates, but I also leave room for the old "agree to disagree" position.
But it is a great temptation to — when arguing a position — throw in a dig at the other person or take an extreme position to goad the other. This isn’t limited to interpersonal relations or “friendly debates,” however; such snarkiness and incivility seems to be everywhere now.
Friendships should be stronger than political differences. My first job out of college was working for a local newspaper, edited at the time by a very conservative editor. Our political differences — which we debated endlessly — never undermined our respect for each other.
If it bothers you that much, I would suggest you speak to your friend about it openly. Let him know that although you two have differing opinions, that your friendship is more important than politics. You can even suggest that you both adhere the old rule of “no discussion of politics or religion” between you. Better a rule about what not to speak about than destroying a good friendship.
I wish you well.
A graduate of Seton Hall University with a Master's degree in counseling, Frank Fleischman III counseled a diverse population of adolescents, adults and children while an intern at both Jersey City Medical Center and SERV Behavioral Health Systems, Inc. He also received training from the National Coalition Building Institute, which focuses on diversity and interpersonal communication. Need advice? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org