Guide to Surviving Conversations in 2020 Post Election Anxiety
The 2020 post election anxiety has contributed to an incredibly stressful time for many of us.
As we gear up for the holiday season during COVID, I thought it pertinent to write about ways to communicate about post election anxiety with various individuals around many important topics.
Most of my sessions the last week or two (minimum) have focused predominantly on the election:
- whether that was the stress of the outcome
- human rights concerns
- communication on different perspectives and opinions with those around them
- fear of police brutality
- fear of civil war or violence within communities
- issues surrounding boundaries.
Although I could write a whole post about the election itself and the various observations I have, I imagine that it would be more helpful to hear tricks and tips to navigate this rather than to hear me “rant.”
Check yourself Before You Wreck Yourself
Most of all, it is important to remember to check your privilege.
What do I mean by that?
Well, the more privilege you have, the more difficult it may be for you to relate to someone who has a different privilege status (i.e a different set of barriers).
For instance if you are a white, cisgender, middle class, heterosexual woman, you have a different level of privilege compared to someone who is a multiracial, transgender man who lives pay check to pay check.
I share this because for people of various communities, there were significant policy and human rights issues on the line.
So if you are coming from different privilege spaces it’s important for you to notice if safety was on the ballot for you this year.
Safety can look like the right to marry, the right to walk on the street, financial security, health care, rights over your body, etc.
There are many examples, and these are just BRIEF examples of what that might look like.
I share this because so many of my clients have shared either struggling to understand some levels of reactivity from certain people in their lives or the lack of understanding and compassion.
One of the main issues I have seen are clients feeling like people are not understanding the level of safety and harm that can be done with specific policies.
So please be aware that recognizing your privilege in conversations is important.
Take a Deep Breath… Slow Down!
In heated conversations it is important to to take a deep breath and I tell many of my clients “slow the F*** down.”
I say this because when we are not breathing, we are literally unable to hear or speak in a way that is effective or productive.
Our body literally starts to go into survival mode which depending on our lived experience can throw us into what I like to call a “trauma tornado” or get you a “ticket on the trauma train” which is my silly way of saying a “trauma spiral.”
Breathing is so important. So just breathe.
Take a breathe (inhale) for 1….2….3….4.
And hold it for 1….2….3….4.
Then exhale breath for 1….2….3….4.
Then hold for 1….2….3….4.
If you practice this daily, it will help you have more control over your body and breath, and thus, it will allow you to engage in the moment in diaphragmatic breathing.
In my experience (personally and professionally), when we do not do this we lose our ability to remain in the conversation and be within our integrity.
Seek to Understand Rather than Be Understood
This one is a little bit complicated and nuanced as the first one was.
Seek to understand means to ask questions and use curiosity.
If you are in a curious space, you are able to be in a space of learning which puts your brain in a different focus and allows you to try to understand (not agree) with whomever you are speaking with.
When we seek to understand, people can feel less defensive or critical.
When people are in a defensive or critical position we are leaning into an argument style of communication or what will likely be an ineffective conversation.
When we seek to understand, we seek to collaborate with who we are working with, rather than convincing someone.
So often in therapy, I watch people act as if I am the judge and they are in front of me and each other to convince the other that they are right.
When we are focused on being right rather than understanding no one “wins.” And again if we are focused on “being right” or “winning” the argument that is not about connection or compassion that is about disconnection, shame, and/or rejection. Also, if we are focused on winning or only being understood… that is not usually helpful or productive.
Validation. It’s a buzz word in our culture and in therapy. And this is a BIG part of seeking to understand rather than be understood. Validation is about hearing the other person NOT AGREEING.
Let’s say that again for those in the back…
Validation is about hearing and understanding someone’s perspective. NOT AGREEING.
So validating someone’s perspective is not agreeing with their point of view. At.All. It is about showing the person that you were listening and not just in your head thinking about a response (Guilty! I have done that… not my best strategy!). Validation is reflecting back to someone what they said in order to show that you are listening… or seeking to understand them.
The reason these things are important is because it allows the conversation the best opportunity and chance to not end in an explosion.
If you are still with us and want to learn more, stay tuned for our Friday download about how to communicate when you have post election stress.
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