“My brother and I constantly fight over politics – what can I do?”
-- Carl, age 20
First, hard as it may be, stop arguing with him. Arguing doesn’t get you anywhere. It only confirms your brother in his opinions and raises your blood pressure.
Then start thinking:
- Do you think this a sibling-related conflict? Is there an underlying conflict related to his being younger, older, or the same age as you? Arguing may be a reflection of a power struggle between you. Or maybe your brother thinks it’s “fun” to tease you and see you get upset.
- Does the conflict between you and your brother mirror a similar disagreement between your parents about politics or values? Or between one of you and your parent(s)?
- You might try to find out more about where these differences between you and your brother come from. Ask him questions in a friendly, open-minded way to try to find out if you and he have different underlying values or ways of seeing the world. Has he had different life experiences from you that affect his political attitudes?
- Are your personalities quite different, in ways that would incline you to interpret events differently?
- Chances are, if your political attitudes are quite different, you may also be exposed to quite different sources of media or other inputs about politics. In fact, you may think he “watches garbage”, while he thinks you “listen to crap” or hang out with the wrong people.
What, if anything, can you do about this recurrent fight?
- First, getting a better understanding of your brother’s thinking may make it easier to avoid conflict in the future or cool it down when tempers flare.
- Second, it may help if you each understood more about the inputs the other one is getting on political topics. Maybe you could offer to set up an exchange. Agree that you’ll listen to, read, or watch some of his sources in return for his doing the same with regard to some of yours. You may find there are points on which you agree. At a minimum, you’ll know more about what each other are thinking.
- Third, you may decide that, over time, you’d like to get your brother to think more like you do about politics. Check out our Talking Politics Resources for tips on how this might be accomplished.
- Finally, you may decide it’s just not worth trying to talk with your brother about politics. If so, when a political topic comes up, change the subject, propose an alternative activity, or leave the room. He can’t make you upset if you won’t allow yourself to get upset.
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