No matter how close-knit you are with your friends or family, you’re going to have some differing beliefs. We all experience life in different ways interpret information differently, and sometimes, our paths go in another direction entirely.
Sometimes, these beliefs are easy enough to handle. For example, you may enjoy video games, but your family thinks they’re a waste of time, but tolerate it, especially if you bring up the fact they have hobbies too.
But then, there are those divisive beliefs where one disagreement creates toxicity. You know the ones. Believing in a different religion than your family, or not believing at all. Having different political beliefs. Or, being vegan. When it comes to veganism, people often feel alienated from their friends and families. Especially if you’re vegan for the animals, it really makes it tough to be around others when they are consuming any type of animal products.
Let’s discuss a few ways different beliefs can affect your relationships, and what you can do about it.
The Internet Has Made it Worse
If your friends and family live further away, you’re probably using the Internet or texting to communicate with them. This is where the conflict can truly arise, and for a few reasons:
We Love Conflict, But Hate Direct Conflict
When discussing your beliefs in-person, you tend to not go too far into them. It can be frustrating or disappointing when the people you love either mock you or don’t even try to understand the reasoning behind your moral stance. If you want to avoid drama and are only face-to-face for a little while sometimes it is easier to just agree to disagree. However, when you’re behind a screen, it’s often much easier to express your beliefs and sometimes that leads to confrontation.
It’s Hard to Tell Emotion
When you’re speaking to someone in-person, you can read their facial expressions and hear their tone of voice. It is said that 93% of all communication is non-verbal when speaking to someone in person. However, online, it’s much harder to tell someone’s tone, especially if it’s an older family member who has believed the same philosophies for a really long time. At one point you have to ask yourself, “If someone has always acted like this, what is the likelihood that they will ever change.” Or if the argument is going back and forth and no one is changing their views you have to step back and decide how much more energy you want to waste on it.
Social Media Breeds Divisiveness
The toxic culture of social media has made us much more divisive, especially with differing beliefs. There are a few factors that play into this. For example, if you’re in a bubble of people who have similar beliefs, confronting someone with a different belief might be shocking. In today’s current political environment many people have found it much less stressful to surround themselves with people who only think as they do. We’ve become so comfortable in our little world that when there is any disagreement the belief is often, “everyone who disagrees with us is against us.” This is often not the truth, but the Internet has made it so easy to share opinions and much harder for people to have real conversations that it only takes one of these and you are probably already canceling out the other person.
Don’t get us wrong; there are times when being aggressive towards someone with reprehensible beliefs is warranted, but often, a slight difference in worldview gets blown way out of proportion online.
We Are Still Tribalistic
When you have differing beliefs from a group, people’s tribalistic instincts tend to kick in and they want to drive out the enemy or make them join the tribe. It’s easy to jump to self-righteousness and defensiveness. That type of response is often met with an equal reaction from anyone you encounter in this space.
They Don’t Realize How Much You Care
Sometimes, it’s hard to figure out how passionate someone is about their beliefs. To a non-vegan, a vegan lifestyle may seem extreme and unrealistic. However, to you, it’s an ethical lifestyle that is necessary. Because of this, they may not handle your beliefs with as much grace as they should. If you try to talk to them about it and go too deep down the road into the particulars of animal cruelty, this might be a trigger for someone’s guilt and put them on the defense. In this case, try not to take it personally. But, Melanie Joy often says the best types of conversations are those where you are asking permission to share and you are being candid with where you are going and not just attacking someone.
Finding Common Ground or Agreeing to Disagree is Hard
In today’s divisive world, many of us have forgotten that agreeing to disagree is a valid option. Again, there are exceptions, but sometimes, it’s not a hill worth dying on. Realizing that you have different beliefs and that you still love a person is important in dealing with life.
Then, there’s finding common ground. Instead of discussing your differences with fervor, many of us may benefit by finding something we both share in common. This can open up your friends and family to your side and possibly make them change their minds, or at least accept your opinion. We know that some people are so passionate about animal rights. Sometimes the right approach though is through a softer introduction. Instead of attacking someone for their current habits, maybe offer them some vegan food. It’s a novel idea in today’s day and age that god forbid we should ask someone why they feel the way they do. That might be all that it takes to get someone to share their beliefs. More than likely we will find that someone has been doing the same thing for such a long time, and they are comfortable with it, so they never thought about giving it another try.
Your family may not want to give up animal products, but they may find common ground if you discuss factory farming and how poor the animals are being treated. They may agree with this and be more ethical with how they shop, going for animal products not made from factory farming. They aren’t vegans, but you did open the idea to them.
There are many approaches too. You may talk to them about the health benefits of a plant-based diet or talk to them about the sustainability reasons behind being vegan. People are so complex, that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to trying to get someone to see something your way. The beauty of it all is that if you approach it in a respectable manner your friends and family are going to be much more likely to receive your message. Especially if you are living as an example of what you are preaching. Actions often speak volumes over words.
How Therapy and Counseling Can Help
If you’re having trouble with your friends and family, therapists or local counselors may be able to help. Seeking a family therapist, or one for you personally, is not something to be ashamed of. They are a great way to get an educated objective perspective of human psychology. Here are some things that a counselor or therapist can help you with.
Helping Explain Your Points
Sometimes, both parties are poor with getting their point across. Whether they’re tongue-tied or just have a hard time expressing their beliefs without sounding aggressive, it happens. A therapist or counselor can help you by explaining your beliefs in a way that is easy for anyone to understand. This can help you reach common ground with the people you love. One thing that they are probably going to tell you too is, you need to be just as open to listening as you are to trying to get your point across.
Repairing a Relationship or Helping to Move On
If your disagreement has caused you to lose touch with your family, a therapist or counselor may help you rekindle that connection and learn how to have a great relationship regardless of your differences.
However, sometimes it’s better for you and a family member to move on from each other. In a case like this, a counselor or therapist can help you to learn how to live without them. One thing that vegans like to do is create a community. This is not a bad thing at all. Your mental well-being is the most important thing you have. Only put yourself in situations that are going to be psychologically safe. Therapists are great at helping you decide what might or might not be a safe situation for you to enter.
Your friends, family, and any partners you have are going to have conflict. No matter how close you are, you’re going to disagree or get angry. A therapist can help through conflict management. Being mindful of your emotions and trying to reach a common goal is important with any family conflict, and a therapist can teach you how.
For a family member who is hot-headed, this sounds impossible, but therapists are quite good at their job and can find ways to help manage the conflict and come to a common solution.
Having opposing viewpoints is a part of life, and a therapist or counselor can help. If you’re having trouble getting your beliefs across, speak to a professional today.
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health-related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.