Many people who come to therapy are worried that the opinions they have are starting to negatively affect their relationships with friends and family. They ask questions such as:
- “Why do I always argue with my partner about politics?”
- “Why do I find it difficult to talk to my friends about current events?”
- “Why do I feel like I’m losing touch with some of the people I care about the most?”
In today’s world, it is common for people to feel like they live in an “echo chamber” where they are only exposed to information and opinions that agree with their own. This can lead to increased polarization and division, making people feel less connected to those around them.
Echo chambers can form when people search for sources of information that align with their existing beliefs and filter out those that do not. As a result, they become isolated from opposing viewpoints and their perspectives become more extreme. This can lead to a vicious cycle of confirmation bias, where people seek out information that confirms their existing beliefs while ignoring information that contradicts them.
As a psychologist, I can tell you that the personal relationships you have with friends and family are integral to your mental health. It is almost never worth losing a friend over an ideological divide. Here are two tips to help you maintain relationships with people who may differ from you ideologically.
#1. Seek out various sources of information
A study published in Social indicators research shows that where we get our news from can significantly affect our perception of the world around us. For example, the research found that people who rely mainly on social media for news have a higher perception of corruption compared to those who get their news from traditional sources such as newspapers, radio and television.
This can partly be attributed to the lack of control or regulation by established “gatekeepers” in social media, which provide the opportunity for the presentation of more sensational and extreme news.
In addition, social media have low barriers to entry, resulting in many news providers catering to specific audiences and their preferences.
As such, it is important to consider the source of our news and try to get information from a variety of perspectives. This helps us to have a comprehensive understanding of current events, be more accepting of different points of view and reduce the possibility of political polarization.
#2. Practice active listening
Active listening, which is paying attention to what is being said and how it is being said, is a crucial skill to cultivate in today’s fast-paced, technology-driven world where echo chambers are all too common.
Remember that different opinions often stem from different experiences, values and beliefs. Active listening is important for escaping echo chambers because it allows us to consider different perspectives and expand our understanding of the world. By truly listening to what others have to say and engaging in meaningful conversations with people who hold different opinions, we can challenge our own biases and expand our knowledge.
According to a recent study in Journal of Positive Psychology, attentive listening increases the level of humility in every interaction, creating a positive feedback loop between better listening and more humility. By being humble and understanding that not everyone will perceive the world the way you do, you will be able to engage in deeper conversations that foster more fulfilling relationships that can increase your well-being.
Echo chambers can have a negative impact on people’s relationships with those who have different opinions. If you find that your opinions are destroying the interpersonal relationships you consider important, it may help to talk to a therapist. In the meantime, you can try to find different sources of information and practice active listening. It is important to remember that everyone is entitled to their own opinions and that we can and should maintain positive relationships with our friends and family who are different from us.