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5 Tips to Survive the 2016 Election

All you have to do is turn on the news, go to social media, or start talking with a friend and it’s clear that this election season has taken a toll. Without doubt, the contest between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is the most contentious and polarizing of our lifetimes.

Many of my friends and clients have talked to me about the tension and stress they have experienced when dealing with a friend or loved one who is rooting for the "other side" to win.

But this election will soon be over, and our relationships—we hope—will last a lifetime. So, how do we maintain healthy and happy relationships when we may disagree strongly about something as important as who should become the next president of the United States? Here is my advice:

1. Make your relationship more important than being right

When disagreements like this occur, it is important to remind yourself that your close relationship matters more than any election result or political point of view. Proceed with conversations cautiously and respectfully and do not let tempers run high. (If, on the other hand, your disagreement is with a total stranger on Facebook, feel free to Hide or Unfriend them.)

2. Agree to disagree

Sometimes no matter how close you are with a person or how much you have in common, there are simply some issues you will not agree on. If you have tried to find common ground and it is not working, tell yourselves you will have to agree to disagree. That does not mean you have to stop having conversations about the topic, it just means that when you talk, you keep in mind that the two of you will likely never agree, and that is okay.

3. Put yourself in the other person's shoes

Keep in mind that opinions and values are based on thoughts and experiences. Take a moment to ask yourself why it is that your loved one might be thinking or feeling this way. This does not mean you have to change your perspective, it just means that you try to develop an understanding of why he or she might hold certain beliefs.

4. Remember what is positive about your relationship

If your disagreement is with your partner, remind yourself about the issues, personality traits and activities that the two of you have in common. In all likelihood, the two of you have shared some values or beliefs or you never would be as close as you are. Try to focus on those. If you are really angry or questioning your ability to continue a relationship with this person, attempt to remember the things you like about him or her and see if those qualities outweigh your political discrepancies.

5. Win or lose, do it graciously

If your candidate or political issue has won, it is important not to brag or gloat. It will only antagonize people. Reserve your celebrating for people who will celebrate with you. If your candidate has lost, do your best not to burden a person who is happy about the results with your sadness or frustration. Instead, surround yourself with people who feel the way you do so that you can comfort and support one another. If you would like to take an action step, get involved in politics or political issues so that you can do what you can to make a difference in future elections.

The five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) are not reserved just for loss of a loved one. These feelings can still happen even after a disappointing election season. If you find yourself experiencing any or all of these, it is completely normal. Should you find your emotions to be too intense or detrimental, seek professional help.

Elections, laws and political offices are all very important to our personal lives and our country. However, we cannot lose sight of the fact that our personal relationships are important as well—even if we sometimes disagree.

Stacy Kaiser is an editor-at-large for Live Happy and a licensed clinical therapist in Southern California.

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