The 2016 primaries are in full swing and in a city of thousands or millions you’re bound to meet at least one person who disagrees with your politics. Whether you’re rooting for Donald Trump (here’s what we imagine he’d be like as a roommate, in case you’re wondering), trolling a Ted Cruz rally or crossing paths with someone sporting a “Feel the Bern” shirt, opposition is everywhere. Luckily, no matter which candidate you’re supporting during this heated race to the White House, it’s unlikely that you’ll find yourself in a tussle with a stranger unless you’re actively looking for it.
But if one of those people lives in your apartment? Well, that’s a different story. If your roommate is opinionated and passionate about their views, debate may be inevitable. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t have a friendly discussion with a staunch supporter of Marco Rubio when you’re rooting for Hillary Clinton, or that your house has to turn into a battle zone because your roommate is hanging up Ben Carson fliers when you’re an avid John Kasich fan. Political etiquette applies both in and outside the home and is doubly important if you want to avoid any major conflict with the person with whom you share a wall. So before releasing your wrath, heed this advice from fellow political junkies who sidestepped a fiery argument with their roommates.
Listen With an Open Ear
If you’re going to get anywhere with your roommate, you have to know that communication is key. So, while you might be dying to have your voice heard, just know that you might never see eye-to-eye — and that’s OK.
“Agree to disagree, but keep an open mind, and have fun with your difference in opinion,” says Tauhid Chappell, a web and digital content producer from Sacramento. “Watching the debates together, for example, can lead to some bonding time over drinks, especially if you both dislike a particular politician. There are ways to find common ground, but the key is to be willing to listen to the other side.”
And just in case things get too heated, Chappell recommends discussing things in a neutralizing environment.
“My freshman year roommate — who was pretty conservative — and I agreed not to talk about politics in our room. But if we were out and about outside the dorms, we’d occasionally talk about them knowing there were plenty of distractions around us that could help us change the topic.”
Take the High Road and Be Respectful
If you can’t hold your roommate to bite their tongue, the least you can do is avoid adding fuel to the fire. It may not be easy but remember: You do have to live with this person. Don’t say something you’ll regret and can’t come back from. And when in doubt, just put yourselves in their shoes, advises journalist Sumayya Tobah, who knows this first-hand.
“Avoiding political drama has always been difficult for me. I usually wear my opinions on my sleeve, and I’m not afraid to share them. But when living with someone, it’s like a game of prisoner’s dilemma. You have to play the game and cooperate until it’s time to say goodbye,” she says.
The way my roommate and my suitemate are talking about politics right now makes me feel like I’m watching a debate on tv
— Jennifer Forte (@jenniferfortee) March 1, 2016
“One of my past roommates was very Republican, and keeping my opinions to myself was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I think it’s important to remember that everyone is shaped by personal contexts and experiences, and while I may not agree with their opinions, I absolutely respect their right to have opinions that differ from mine — so long as they show me the same respect. In the end, being able to find the humanity in other people is the best way to avoid drama. Looking at a person and thinking, how did you come to these conclusions? What can I do, what example can I set, to make you change your mind?”
Don’t Take Things Too Seriously
Obviously, politics can be a great unifier or a divider, but even if you don’t agree about everything, politics should not tear your home apart. So what if you feel like screaming every time you hear your roommate say he wants to make something “great again.” If you can laugh it off, the better off you’ll be post-election.
“Try to keep any political discussions lighthearted and don’t use them as personal attacks on your roommates,” says Josh Higgins, a cybersecurity reporter from Washington D.C. “Having lived in a house split evenly among Democrats and Republicans, we’d talk politics a lot but we always made sure it was just fun political banter and not disrespectful arguments.”