Ask Emma: How do I handle political conversations with my roommates?

Consider what you want outcome of conversation to be; agree to listen to each other, be respectful



Are politics seeping into your living situation? Ask Emma has some advice on how to navigate that tricky situation.

EMMA LEDBETTER, Evergreen news editor

Dear Emma,

I have several roommates. We get along pretty well — except when it comes to political conversations. I don’t want to get into our different ideologies, but we very much differ when it comes to masks/vaccination mandates and a lot of other things. I really try to preserve the peace, but it’s so difficult not to argue with them. Sometimes I have to take a break and leave the room when they start talking about politics. 

Do you have any tips for how to get along with them? I don’t need to be right about everything. I just want to be heard and respected in my own home. 


Politically Pooped

Dear Politically Pooped,

That’s a tough situation. You’re bound to disagree with people in your life, but it’s unfortunate that this is happening with the people you live with. 

My first recommendation is to identify what you want the outcome to be here. Do you want to have a conversation where everyone gets to express their viewpoints? Do you want to escape the conflict before it starts? Do you want to agree to disagree and avoid political conversations in the future?

I also encourage you to notice what topics spark debate or are most frustrating for the people involved. If avoidance is your solution (which I don’t necessarily encourage), knowing the topics that set things off could help.

Once you know what you want from this and what topics are most triggering, it should be easier to make progress with your roommates. 

I encourage you to have a conversation with them about how you’re feeling and what you would like to see happen in the future. Chances are, they might also be uncomfortable with how the conversations have been going. Even if they’re not, it’s worth bringing up to be completely transparent. 

When it comes to politics, it can be very difficult to have a conversation where you feel heard instead of feeling frustrated. With this in mind, see if you can have a conversation about your conversations — not about the politics. 

Think of a couple examples of your previous political conversations. Say what the situation was, how you observed your roommates behave or speak and how that impacted you or made you feel. Be sure you only speak for yourself and you don’t assume the intent behind their words. 

For example, your statement might sound something like this: “When we were talking about vaccines last week, you interrupted me while I was trying to say something. This made me feel like you don’t value what I’m saying, which was frustrating.”

Follow up with what you hope could come of a future conversation. You could say something like this: “If we have a conversation like that in the future, I would really appreciate it if you could let me share my perspective without interrupting. I don’t want to argue, and it would mean a lot if you could hear me out.” 

Political conversations can create really sticky situations, but if you all agree that you want to be heard and respected, it should help the outcome a bit. 

I hope that helps!