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Navigating Relationships In A Complicated New World

Both personally and professionally, the last few years have been one of the hardest I’ve ever lived through. My quiet, sleepy town suddenly woke to find itself divided by politics, religion, and class. Not only did we have marches, vigils and protests, we also found out we have an actual hate group in town. We had an openly racist school board member who shared things online that said:

“Listen to mommy. Never betray your race.”

I helped organize the group that eventually got this guy to resign. I went to school board meetings, spoke with the press and was on the local news. I started an online petition to get him removed and raised over $500 to buy “Hate Has No Home Here” yard signs for our town. My point was that I was not quiet about this on social media and I spoke openly about it at my business.

And it was a very easy call to make. I have no regrets and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

Why It Matters

This man was openly racist and does not believe in public education. Standing up publically was a no-brainer for me. Yet, there are many situations that are not easy to navigate. Whether it’s in our business or personal life, we now live in a divided world where we are forced to choose sides, sometimes on a daily basis.

Regardless of where you live or what you do for work, our current political climate is seeping into our lives in very real and stressful ways. And it isn’t one that we can easily ignore or hide from. Our only real choice is find our footing in an often chaotic new landscape.

In The ‘Trump Effect’ Is Killing Romantic Relationships. Here’s How That Could Kill Businesses, Too, author Wanda Thibodeaux explains:

  • 22% of Millenials have ended a romantic relationship over political differences
  • 30% of Americans say the general political climate has negatively impacted their relationships
  • 20% of couples now fight more about Trump policies than they do money

Regardless of where you live or what you do for work, our current political climate is seeping into our lives in very real and stressful ways. And it isn’t one that we can easily ignore or hide from. Our only real choice is to find our footing in an often chaotic new landscape.

It Starts With Us

The easiest and most often-used solution is to blame someone else. I’ve done it many times and I’ll probably do it again. But when it comes to our most valued relationships, we need to realize it’s a choice between being righteous or toxic. Relationship expert Matthew Hussey explains a few harmful behaviors that can easily end relationships:

  • Criticizing someone’s life choices
  • Not appreciating people
  • Bringing complaints/negativity
  • Not respecting someone’s independence
  • Pushing too hard too fast

I am guilty of all of these. And I’ve done it at work, home and on vacation. While I have no problem standing up against racism, I’ve also been extremely critical of others who haven’t stood up for better health care or environmental protections. I haven’t cared whether or not someone else had a good point because I didn’t want to listen.

I wanted to win and for them to lose. And that’s not how any healthy relationship works. Before we can find any solutions, we all need to do some soul searching to see what negative roles we’ve played in our relationships and what we can do to prevent it from happening again.

What We Can Do

There is no reason not to have a moral line in the sand and mine is racism. I don’t think it’s a partisan, religious or even cultural issue. I don’t want to be friends with racists and don’t care if I lose clients because I’m vocal on this issue (it’s happened before and sleep better without their money). I’m never going to be quiet about it and I accept that it has the potential to hurt my business. Unfortunately, there are many issues that are not as clear-cut as racism.

In, 13 Millennial Women On How Their Friendships Have Changed Since The 2016 Election, marriage and family therapist Melody Li explains that we should slow down, listen to underlying fears and try to empathise. She adds this is hard work and may take several attempts:

“Only focus this intentional energy on deeply meaningful, important relationships. It’s often not worth engaging with people that aren’t truly important to you.”

Each of us will need to figure out what we can accept into our lives and what we can’t. I know what my business stands for and what it doesn’t. I don’t worry about those that have crossed my line and won’t bother trying to understand their fears or try to empathise with their hatred. I just can’t do it. But for any relationships I want to salvage or grow, I don’t mind slowing down enough to have a conversation that may heal our divides.

I have no idea if it will work, but I’m willing to try.

Finding Our Compass

For me, the only way to navigate this complicated new world is to let my internal compass lead the way. I cannot tolerate racism and will be loud and vocal on the subject. I’m also vocal on rising hunger and increase opioid addictions, but I realize no one else wants those things either. We just may have different ideas on how to reduce these issues.

While I have no problem cutting out those who are the opposite of my True North, it’s not easy to eliminate those who are taking a different path to the same place. But since I’ll never get to my destination alone, I’m going to try to keep walking with them for as long as I can.

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Liesha Petrovich
LIESHA is a freelancer by day and Kyokushin Black Belt by night. A late-blooming academic, she's happiest teaching business at UoPeople. Liesha is the author of Killing Rapunzel: Learning How to Save Yourself Through Determination, Grit, and Self-Employment (her mother hates the title - but it's a metaphor mom!). She talks business at Microbusiness Essentials and everything else at Liesha Petrovich.com

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