Mending Fences After A High-Tension Election


Now that America has chosen a president, it’s time to rebuild relationships affected by one of the most acrimonious elections in modern history, says Henry Ford Health System psychologist Michael Ryan.

Dr. Ryan says mending broken fences is possible with a co-worker, family member or friends, starting with empathy.

“If you’re on the winning side of things, not gloating would be the first step,” she says. “Others may feel deflated, angry, or be worried and anxious about the future. Empathy is being able to understand another’s perspective. Even if you can’t identify with them from a political perspective, you can put yourself in their shoes by understanding the loss they’re feeling.”

If tempers flared, it’s possible to move beyond heat-of-the-moment hard feelings.

“If you were responsible for saying hurtful things, now is certainly the time to provide a genuine apology and take ownership of your role in that,” she says, adding that sometimes it’s difficult for someone to accept even a heart-felt apology. “Maybe what you said was very hurtful and they need time to process what occurred. Don’t get defensive about that. Give them time and keep the door open for reconciliation.”

Moving Forward with Self-Awareness
Dr. Ryan also recommends that we should learn what triggers our emotions and how to not over-react.

“Know what your triggers are and, when those emotions grow, use it not for reactivity but a guide for good decision-making,” she says. “When emotions get high, we often do or say things we don’t mean or would have otherwise kept under better control. Always remember to be responsible for your emotions.”

That’s especially important going into the holidays. Dr. Ryan suggests making social gatherings with the potential for discourse a “Politics-Free Zone.” A lighthearted, positive approach would be to reward those who do not discuss politics during the event.

“Make a game out of it; have a prize,” she says. “With Thanksgiving, you could have the ‘politics pie,’ that only goes out to people who don’t talk about politics. Be creative.”

In the end, remember getting along regardless of an election is in everyone’s best interest.

“No matter who they supported, they may not have agreed with all the policies or actions of the candidate,” says Dr. Ryan. “Remaining focused on the other commonalities you have, you can maintain a loving and respectful relationship with opposing political views.”

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Michael Ryan, Psy.D., see patients at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

Categories: FeelWell