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It’s hard to have a conversation with those that have opposing views. Here’s how you can fix that.

Though we may not agree on everything, having a decent conversation can be all it takes to make real change (Image via NPR)

President Donald Trump has caused some conservatives to go into hiding. As conservatives, they may feel reluctant to admit their right-leaning mindset and too scared to admit who they voted for. Though, most liberals who are also under scrutiny for their political values, are said to come off as more confident in their viewpoints and don’t feel the need to hide it, especially on college campuses.

According to recent survey data from Pew Research Center, 58 percent of Republicans believe colleges and universities have a negative impact on the country and promote partisan divide. Over the last two years, Republicans have become increasingly more convinced that colleges are a negative influence on the country.

As we reach a year under Trump, it’s becoming easier for conservatives to share their political views; this contentment allows conservatives to influence those they are closest to. Meeting in the middle to understanding others’ beliefs despite their differences is vital to promoting an open-minded conservative community.

This is an open letter to fellow liberals and Democrats who can’t get around their friend’s Republican beliefs.

Dear Liberals,

When your first reaction to “I’m conservative,” “I’m Republican” or “I voted for Donald Trump,” is one of disgust, stop and think about what type of friend you are. Chances are, up until this point in your relationship, you weren’t aware of their partisan influences or choices. Just because they have a different opinion on health care or immigration than you do doesn’t mean they aren’t the same pal you grabbed drinks with last week. They are more than their political choices and they deserve more from you as their friend.

Stop stereotyping those who lean right and label themselves as a Republican or voted for Trump. You are not your vote. You are an individual who, after time and consideration for what you believe is best for the country, decided your vote was best placed in a presidential candidate who aligned with your needs. In America, the freedom to choose your political preference and be vocal about it is a right. It is a virtue to respect others’ opinions.

If you and your conservative buddy are going to duke it out over policy and reform, do so respectfully. The same way you have a favorite band and your favorite band is, obviously, better than their favorite band, you’re both entitled to that preference. Healthy disagreement and debate can develop a relationship rather than hold the relationship back. If a conservative has decided to share their beliefs with you, do not make them regret confiding in you.

Empathy is key, and politics is not everything. Your conservative colleague has other interests. Even if they happen to be a Republican, they might also really enjoy horror movies or alternative rock. Because there are differences in your political beliefs does not mean you can’t enjoy the same music, laugh at the same jokes or watch the same movies. Discussing and debating politics is important, but it does not need to be the topic of conversation everywhere you go. Learning the right time and place for politics will ensure you’re both receiving your healthy dose of debate and still enjoying each other’s company.

Exposing yourself to differences in opinion greatly nourish your ability to understand others. When it comes to politics, knowing the other side’s agenda can help strengthen your preferences. Consider yourself lucky to have political diversity immediately available to you in the form of healthy discussion. The internet is an unforgiving place, and striking up a conversation with your resident conservative can be kinder than picking a fight on Facebook.

Do not forget the difference between being conservative and being Republican. Being conservative is to have beliefs, values and preferences that are further right on the political spectrum. Just because someone is conservative in beliefs does not make them a Republican. Both Democrats and Republicans can lie somewhere in the middle of the political spectrum and share liberal or conservative beliefs on a case by case basis. Choosing a political party is for the sake of placing a vote for policy or a president whose values should line up with your conservative or liberal beliefs. Open the floor for discussion and you might find yourself meeting somewhere in the middle on different subjects with your conservative friend.

Not all conservatives are a specific ethnicity or from one cultural background, and some voters voted Republican to maintain specific balance in the executive branch. Driving the White House specifically to left or right comes down to the candidates presented on election day. For those who knew they want to keep a Republican in the White House, voting for Donald Trump was their option.

A quick shout out to the Bernie Sanders, who lost his place on the Democratic ticket, and eventually chose to support his opponent, Hillary Clinton.

As a liberal or Democrat, if you’re having trouble understanding why this is still an excuse, ask your conservative friend what influenced their vote had and open the floor for discussion and debate (again). It could be completely possible Trump is promoting policies that aren’t being covered extensively in the media and may require some extra research to find out about. You have a prime source right in front of you in the form of a conservative or Republican.

At the end of the day, there is no harm in deciding if a friendship or relationship won’t work out for you. It is your choice to decide what you can and cannot handle as a liberal or Democrat and whether politics is going to take a bigger influence on who you hang out with. Understanding your limits can save you the trouble of headaches and arguments that turn into ruined friendships.

Keep in mind you, as a liberal, made your voting decisions the same way a conservative did. Both of you are entitled to your right to vote and both of you deserve respect from one another. So, stop writing off your local conservative and start a conversation instead.

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