Arguments with loved ones can wreck an entire day

Focus On Where We Agree

It is easy to feel a sense of helplessness or even depression these days. When we turn on the news or talk with friends were besieged with information about shocking events that make many of us feel uncertain about our future. A pandemic, an election, court cases, protestors overpowering police and briefly controlling our country’s most iconic seat of shared power.

As therapists, many of our clients are expressing a sense that they don’t control their own lives. 

I can’t give a client a new job, or even reassure them that everything will be alright, except to point out that, on balance, every day, most of us work toward solutions. However, I can give advice that will help them feel better and see a path towards a better future. 

The secret is simple as focusing on our shared values and beliefs.


Ask: what do we agree on?

Many people complain daily about the gap they are experiencing when they discuss politics with their family members and co-workers. They feel a sense of hopelessness that people they know and care about, or are at least around all the time, don’t see eye-to-eye with them on important topics.

The truth is, though, that this has always been the case.

It isn’t like we woke up and suddenly saw things differently than other people. These differences have ALWAYS existed. 

It is true, however, that today’s heated political climate, with for-profit 24 news on cable and on the internet, has put those differences front and center.

It is easy to forget about why we like these people around us, because we are drawn to focusing on the headlines.

And the headlines are divisive.

We can, instead, choose to focus on what we agree on.

Arguments can ruin an entire day – or more. Photo by Vera Arsic from Pexels

How do I get there?

When you’re caught up in heated political rhetoric it’s easy to forget the things that you agree on.

So let’s take a minute and do that now. Here is a list of possible topics that might help you plan for and avoid a conflict.

Do you and this other person / other people share a love of …

  • Sports? Which sports? Which teams? 
  • Hobbies and crafts? Which ones? 
  • Studying your family ancestry? 
  • A free press? 
  • A favorite TV show or movie?

Perhaps you don’t know the answers to all of the things off the top of your head. If this other person has a workspace they can decorate, there might be some clues there. What hints do you see in their clothing or after-work activities? When they talk to others, is there some link to something you also enjoy – a way to initiate conversation about something else?

It might not come easily for you, but you owe it to yourself and your relative sanity to try and find common ground. In the end, conflict is worse if you feel that you didn’t do anything to try and make it better.

Create mini-vacations for yourself

Another problem with our current environment is that we are continually surrounded by the news and conflict. 

If these conversations start at home, are continued on the news in a commute, and carry on at work, pretty soon they take over our lives.

Nothing feels as oppressive as the uncomfortable thing we can’t get away from.


It isn’t like we woke up and suddenly saw things differently than other people. These differences have ALWAYS existed. – Sakina Issa


In fact, even if there was a topic you loved, you might grow weary of thinking about it this often. 

It is far more stressful when it is something that brings you conflict, or raises your blood pressure and heart rate. 

You have to give yourself a break from these feelings, to allow yourself to recover.

Do this 

  • Creating places or times where you don’t talk about anything but the issues that impact you directly. For instance, you choose to talk about work, or your family, or a project around the house, and forbid each other from talking about the issues that divide you.
  • Taking a break from watching and listening to the news. Perhaps use your Sunday as a day of rest, meaning rest from the drama of our most heated conversations.
  • Scheduling a specific time to talk about the divisive issue, and then leaving it there.
  • Inviting the other person to help you find places you agree within the topics where you disagree. This often involves getting back to big ideas – do we believe in free speech? Do we believe in the peaceful transfer of power?


These small steps will help you maintain the strength you need to get through these times.


Having a hard time coping with today’s fast-changing news?

Do you have a challenging relationship problem that is costing you sleep, or robbing you of your sense of independence?

You likely will benefit from talking to a licensed therapist like Sakina Issa.

Luckily, these conversations can happen discreetly and by appointment using the same tools you have grown comfortable using at work, like Zoom or GoToMeeting. Just click the button in the upper right hand corner.

Want to learn more about parenting or managing tricky sibling relations? Maybe you are working out a new set of goals for yourself?

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