Richard was sharing how difficult it was to have a normal conversation with Jane. Whenever they connected, he felt that he must avoid conversations that could relate to her political opinion.
Asking him what he was trying to avoid, he had no clear answer. However, he regularly came back to his efforts to bring some rationale into the conversation. Sometimes he also tried to make her aware of facts he had collected, well-written articles, and other information sources he found useful. But whenever he seemed to reach a point where he could win an argument, she deflected.
When I asked him why he persisted in trying to persuade her, he had no clear answer either. He seemed to remain hopeful that one day he could change her views.
In a way, what he was trying to do, was to bring her back into his world, which is into his worldview.
He wasn’t looking for her to share his opinions, or to be perfectly aligned with him. But he was challenged by the fact that a friend had views he could not buy into. Political conversations with her felt like a battleground on which he might lose their friendship, his ability to tolerate her difference or what felt to him like his control of the situation.
What Richard wasn’t noticing, was how his reactions to her were impulsive. Instead of letting her share her opinions, he felt triggered to agree or disagree. That was the only way he could imagine common ground for them. Stepping into curiosity also seemed to be too dangerous, as that could prolong what felt to him like an ordeal.
She was too important to him to simply stop being in contact. He cared too much for her to, as he saw it, leave her alone with such opinions. At the same time, he cared too much for his own opinions and values. He wanted them to be understood and seen by others. He feared that letting her stick to her opinion would endanger the world.
None of this was conscious, otherwise, she would not have had the power to trigger him.
Whatever belief both had about how their relationship should unfold; it contained some desire for conformity and harmony.
Nevertheless, they preferred to continue arguing, thus resisting each other’s opinions and hoping to be right. What they didn’t lean into was asking themselves how these conversations contributed to their friendship.