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Can You Be Friends With People Who Have Different Views?

This blog was archived from April 14, 2016.

Hot topic alert!

But your opinions are different from mine, can we still be friends?

The answer to that seems simple enough, right? My initial reaction after hearing a question like that would be: "Of course! Just because you feel one way about something, and I feel the complete opposite, doesn't mean we can't still be friends!" Then I would end it with a smile, a hug, and a "let's schedule a play date some time!"

That was entirely too good to be true! Cuuuuz it kind of is. Hear me out.

This past year has had it's ups and downs and learning points for me. I am obviously one who expresses herself and her opinions with passion and heart and facts littered through. I've had to learn the difference between a debate and an answer to a question. If someone had a question about something and was on the opposite view point, I would defend my answer to the death with point after point and link after link and then I would realize this person doesn't plan on changing their views or even hearing the other parties, they just wanted to let you know they disagree with you. Heads up, if you disagree with someone, please state some facts and not just, "I am offended by what you said." Partly because, well... you being offended doesn't make you right. Debates are no fun if they're one-sided...and I get it, not everyone wants to debate.I've had to learn the difference between someone asking for advice and someone who just wants to be heard. They will likely continue in their ways, they just want someone to listen to them and tell them that their feelings are warranted.

I come to a cross roads often and battle it out with myself thinking, "am I being a good friend by just keeping my opinion to myself?" I find that I am being a SHAM of a friend if I don't warn or say something to help this person's situation.

In order to keep myself from being offended and keep my sanity together, I've had to get on level playing ground with certain friends. Friendship, like any relationship, should be worked on, right? We hear it all the time: marriage is a lot of work! And although I am by no means comparing the two, I do feel that when a friendship is left alone or set to a side for too long that the strength of it can dwindle. Life really only gifts you with a few "lifelong friends", the kind who will always be there, even though you don't see one another often, and these friends? Well, not to state the obvious, but they likely have similar views and opinions as you do when it comes to those "stay away from" subjects such as: politics, religion, child rearing, and what you would deem as "moral." Think about it. Check your friends list, then check your BEST friends list.

So what do I mean by "level playing ground"? Well, friend x doesn't agree with my stance on vaccines. We are completely opposite in our views and discussing it will only anger friend x. So how do I go about this because I really, really love friend x and care about her? We share our thoughts on the matter ONCE, then we agree to disagree, and not only that, we agree to never bring it up, unless the other party asks and it's because they actually want* our opinions on the matter. Does this put a bit of a dent on the friendship? Well, perhaps a little. See, they'll still be your friend, but they might not invite you or your un-vaccinated children over during flu season, or if they just had a baby. They won't be that friend who forces you to vaccinate yourself or your kids before holding their newborn, (because believe it or not, there are parents out there who would make such an idiotic request!) they will likely just invite you over a few months after. (*and if you're me, you will likely sigh with relief because you know that once people are vaccinated they are shedding that very disease they don't want to get, so you are thrilled your kids won't catch what they're spreading around... do you mention any of this? No...because you wanna stay friends. ;) *) Can this friendship last? Only time can tell. And hey! This "vaccine" example is just ONE example of a hot topic that you may or may not have opposing views on. When it comes to raising children, these hot topics almost HAVE to be agreed upon or you are facing some serious backlash in the future. Sure, maybe play date 1 and 2 will go great, but then by play date 5 your kid has a small cough and friend x gives you that look of, "you ought to vaccinate" and then well blow up time.

Another example? Friend Y. Friend Y doesn't believe in disciplining their children. When I say "discipline", I mean, when a child bullies or hits another child for no reason other than out of anger, my belief is that the parent of that child should step in and in some way, shape, or form, show disappointment and pull their child off to the side and let them know that that behavior is just not acceptable. This can also apply to children to yell back at their mothers, children who throw tantrums that don't get corrected. I won't ever tell another mother HOW to discipline her child, but I can tell you this much, my kids don't try anything like that more than once. If you want the secret I can show you one day. ;) So now you ask, why can't Friend Y be your friend if they don't have the same opinion on discipline or lack thereof? Well... let's say our children are playing together. Friend Y has a child who hits my child. I give them a chance. They don't do anything. At most they will tell their child in a very non-threatening, about to read you a bedtime story voice "Oooh ___... we shouldn't do that..." This tactic is one of the most irritating that I have to hold my tongue to. Your kid JUST hit my kid, and you acting like that tells MY CHILD that it was okay for this to happen to them. So I give Friend Y the benefit of the doubt. And hey! Surprise surprise! Five minutes later, it happens AGAIN. Folks, you have two chances max. I feel bad for the children who don't get corrected in the proper way, not because they will likely grow up to be bullies, but because one day, ONE DAY, either another parent will tell your child off, or another kid will fight back. There are many parents who teach their children that if they are hit once then give them a chance, but if it's more than once and no one is stopping it from happening again, to fight back. So your kid who likes to hit will get quite the wake up call and by then will have zero coping skills thanks to your ignorance and wanting to baby them forever. Oh, and I won't continue to bring my children over to that kind of atmosphere until it's corrected. This doesn't mean I cannot be friends with Friend Y, but I certainly cannot hang out with Friend Y unless it's just us, no kids, and with a bottle of wine. Can I maybe then tell Friend Y what I really think of their parenting skills? Nope! That's what the 3rd glass is for. We can discuss anything else: global warming, recipes, where I bought my sweater, what time it is - anything! Anything except for why they are creating a little monster. Does this make me a half-ass friend? Well, maybe that friendship isn't going father than someone to share a drink with every now and then. Do you realize how hard this is for me? -_- Aaaaand to get started on the parents that allow their children to talk back to them or scream at them without consequence?? It's not even that I think that child deserves a STERN sit down (at the least!), it's that I don't want my children picking up those horrible habits and bringing them back home, because they may* just test it out and be sorely disappointed in those results. Suddenly I become the bad guy because "___'s mommy let's her talk to her that way!" Then we gotta have the "Well ___'s mommy is a ___!" :D ..of course I get more creative with the description.

Final example. Friend Z has different political views. So what do we do about this? Just don't discuss politics! IS it that easy? Can I really be friends with someone who thinks people who work hard and make over 100k a year should be taxed the highest to pay for those who do nothing but sit on their ass all day and collect welfare checks? Umm... suuuure... we can be "friends" and sing kumbaya every now and then, but the reality might be that I won't care for this person spewing their views around my children, who I am training up to be hard-working individuals who aren't lied to and told how special they are all their lives. I know I'm going to get so much crap from a post like this, from all my "friend Z's" out there! Do I believe that people have to be held accountable for their own decisions and choices they make in life, whether those choices are bad or good? YES. Would that be a tough conversation to have with a friend who feels otherwise? Yes, because mostly I will want to slam my head in to the wall after listening to them defend such awful, entitled, waste-of-space opinions. Harsh much? Seriously some times I do sit back and wonder how I have friends... and then I realize I have in fact surrounded myself with a great group of women who I never need to have conversations that lead to self-inflicted head banging against the nearest wall.

Is there an actual answer here? It's YES and NO? Yup! The short response would be this:

Yes, you can be friends with people who have opposite views. The friendship will be very simple and have no real substance. You can chat about things like the weather, your outfits, and the best new restaurants to eat at. You can* do this while having your children play in front of you, while you guard them like a hawk. Or you can leave the kids home. But if you're looking for a friendship with substance, surrounding yourself with people of similar views and lifestyles will ultimately make you a more sane and happy person. That's just truth, one road is easier, the other tries your patience.

The realistic answer would be "not really", depending on your definition of "friendship". I discuss that further here, because many people don't differentiate friends with acquaintances. In case you didn't know, there's a difference. I have a LOT of acquaintances that if I saw them out in public, could go on about everything else, besides "hot topics", and everything would be fine and dandy. And you know what? I like it that way! Let's be okay with that! I have a lot of "Facebook friends".. would I go to all of them for advice? Are we being serious here?

There will be people who read through this and interpret it as "only be friends with people who think like you!" if that's some form of friendship-ism that should be frowned upon. Wise words have indeed been spoken in the past regarding friendships. "Tell me who your friends are and I'll tell you who you are." Sorry, but if you're constantly with a circle of women who are pro-vaccine and up-to-date on their children's shots, you think that you're NOT going to be the odd one out? How naive of you. If you are in a circle of friends who are constantly drinking wine when they get together, and drinking just isn't you thing, this doesn't mean they won't invite you out the first few times.. but watch those invites dwindle eventually. This doesn't mean they don't love your company...they just, well, would rather go out with you for coffee because you not enjoying wine with them on "wine night" kiiiinda defeats the purpose of the ladies' wine night. And let's be honest! You'd probably prefer to stay home.

Same thing with having children! I was one of the first of my friends to give birth. I had a lot of friends in the restaurant industry that within a year of me giving birth, were almost non-existent. This is no one's fault. But I now had to be a mother and going out on a Friday night to party was just not on my list of WANTS when I had a 3 month old at home. So they invite once or twice... just to let you know they still care... then the invites stop. Here's where your senses come in. If you are angry about the invites stopping...REALLY ask yourself why. Why would you be upset with them? They don't have kids, you do! They are actually slowly writing you off from the night-life scene and will contact you for coffee and brunch, cuz you're a mom now.. act like it. Does this make them bad friends? No... but you certainly won't have much in common with them until they one-by-one start having babies, then the phone calls come in. The invites will never be partying in a club on a Friday night, they will be called "play dates", where you can THEN scare them off with your views on vaccination. Hahaha! Sorry, haaaad to throw that in there.

You're probably reading this thinking, "Talia, do you have any friends?" ;) You'd be surprised to know, I DO have a handful that I am fiercely close to and love. You'd also be surprised to know that I am more than okay with maintaining only a handful of these friendships, since I have to commit and dedicate the rest of my time to family and work. Some times our views don't align, but we allow the other to express their points. Sensitive topics will eventually come in to play. These are the moments where I have a few options:

  1. Tell them how I feel and risk not being invited over again.

  2. Keep my opinions to myself and try my hardest to force my face muscles to not show true feelings on my FACE.

  3. Pour another glass of wine and nod and talk about weather!

In all things... Choose wisely. <3

*Below are some shots Jeff took of me in SF <3 A nice sunny day, cool breeze, ohh there I go chatting with you about weather. ;)

All content and images copyright TheSisterFiles©2016 and cannot be used without expressed permission.

Photos by: Jeff

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