My friend and I have different politics — how do we stay mates?

University of Leeds
3 min readJun 20, 2024


If you and your friends disagree about important issues, it can be hard to keep those relationships — but it is possible. Disagreements don’t have to mean the end of friendship.

Having friends with different beliefs can be enriching: it can teach us more about the world and our place in it, and make us reconsider our own beliefs or hold them more closely. The occasional debate in the pub or round the dinner table is fun — but sometimes it goes too far, and you realise you and your mate don’t align on something that feels really important to you.

So how can you disagree well, and stay friends when your views aren’t the same?

Graffiti face on a wall with text that reads: ‘What now?’
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Ask curious questions

When we disagree with someone, it can be hard to understand where they’re coming from. If your friendship is solid, it should stand up to some respectful questioning.

Try asking some curious questions:

  • “I’m really surprised that you think that. Could you explain your point of view to me?”
  • “I want to understand your perspective. Would you mind telling me why you think that?”
  • “I haven’t heard that argument before. What makes you think that?”

What’s crucial with these types of questions is that you ask them with a truly open mind. If you’re hostile or disingenuous your friends will sense that, and you might find your disagreement escalating into an argument. If you’re not truly interested in where they’re coming from, then don’t ask.

Set healthy boundaries

If neither of you is budging from your point of view, then putting boundaries in place could help to avoid disrespect and conversations that aren’t productive or are potentially damaging. Boundaries aren’t about controlling someone else’s behaviour; they’re about clearly setting out how you’ll respond to their behaviour. That could be changing the subject, leaving the conversation, or spending less time with someone.

You could say something like:

  • “I’m happy to chat about this with you, as long as we keep it calm and respectful.”
  • “It’s clear that we both really care about this, and I don’t think either of us is going to change our minds. Should we just talk about something else?”
  • “Whenever we talk about this, it seems like we always end up fighting. If it gets brought up again, I’m going to leave the conversation, because it doesn’t feel productive or healthy.”

To establish and hold a boundary, it’s important that you feel clear about what matters to you and what you won’t tolerate. Communicating these to someone in a calm way can help ensure you feel safe.

Know your limits

Some disagreements can be petty, based on small things. Others feel like they get at the fundamental aspect of your life and beliefs about the world. The latter can be much harder to move past.

Disagreements and differing viewpoints within a friendship can be healthy, but if you feel unsafe or disrespected, that’s not okay. If someone is disrespecting you, or ignoring the boundaries you’ve put in place, you might feel like it’s time to end the friendship.

A calm conversation where you clearly set out why you won’t be talking to them anymore can be difficult, but it’s useful for closure. Try not to ghost them, unless you really feel like they’ve gone past a point of no return — chances are, they’ll be confused and might keep trying to get in touch with you.

Ultimately, you’re allowed to do what it takes to keep yourself safe. By asking curious questions, setting boundaries, and knowing your limits, you can learn to disagree well. So don’t be afraid of disagreements. They can be the place where you truly figure yourself out.