Too close to call.  We do not yet know for sure who the next President will be in the USA.  A lot of people are feeling anxious now.

Maybe your breathing is shallow even as you read this.   Are you taking at least 5 seconds to exhale? (always better to exhale a little longer than your inhale, up to 8 is recommended for deeper relaxation).  If you are feeling a little on edge, see this 1 min video for a simple breathing exercise.

This election process was even more polarized and intense than the last one, so we can expect that the aftermath will be challenging.  Not everyone wants help knowing what to say or do right now.  As humans we tend to gravitate towards those who look like us and vote like us. This is understandable.  And you may be totally happy within your “tribe” and not want anything to do with those outside of your group.  I am not intending to persuade you to do otherwise in this article.

If you want to maintain good relationships with a broad spectrum of people beyond their tribe this will help you.  If you believe in showing respect and kindness to all people, no matter their political affiliation, read on.  It is my interest in healthy, mature communication and in the common good that motivates this reflection.

What can we do to make sure we are not letting our feelings rule our interactions?  What can we do to minimize the divisions between ourselves and others who may have voted differently? What do we say or do to create some kind of bridge over to those who had the audacity to vote for the other candidate?

If your candidate won, remember the studies of what happens to people after victory:  testosterone goes up and cortisol goes down.  So, you may be feeling less pain and more power if your candidate won.  This victory-euphoria can also impact awareness and behavior.  If your candidate lost you might feel shocked and a bit paralyzed, and almost like you lost a beloved pet or even a family member.  Your testosterone may have dipped and your cortisol might be up, this is likely to be true for both men and women.

I know that after victory I tend to be less conscious of others around me and in defeat I am more aware and sensitive to others and myself (though I may be angry and pout for a while also).   So here are a few ideas to consider:

My candidate lost!

  1. Remember the classic stages of loss, made popular by Kubler-Ross, because for many this is a significant loss.   Shock, denial, bargaining, anger, acceptance…Or if things are really bad, shock, denial, bargaining, beer, wine, scotch and chocolate.  I think you know them.
  2. Do some vigorous exercise. Remember that feelings change.
  3. Modulate the tendency to get apocalyptic.  It is easy to think that the world will collapse if a certain person is President.  Some things will surely change with this decision we citizens made and plenty of things will stay the same.  Indulging our deepest fears may not aid in achieving the idea of a more robust democracy.
  4. Do some extra self-care.  Make sure you don’t skimp on rest and eat and drink things that benefit your health.  Exercise, meditate and find ways to laugh or cry.

My candidate won!

  1. Be aware that while you are rejoicing others might be feeling shock, fear and/or genuine grief.  How would you speak to someone who lost a dear family member on Tuesday?  Be aware that some may be at that level.   Some are afraid that their stock portfolio they worked at for 45 years will go down the toilet.  Or they may be worried that their loved ones will be deported.
  2. Be careful on social media.  I know it is tempting to post a big victory flag, or to gloat, but it might not help achieve the common good to do it this week.
  3. When in “mixed” company, and especially at Thanksgiving, be humble and interested in others. Sure, you want to celebrate, just be careful not to be unconsciously irritating.  Normally, of course, you wouldn’t…but given your high levels of testosterone you just might be less sensitive than normal.
  4. Show some curiosity in what motivates those who voted differently.

Whether your candidate won or lost, we still need to go to work and to talk to people in our neighborhoods.  Time to roll up our sleeves, keep the communication flowing and work to maintain good relationships with others.

If all else fails, please consider joining me at the webinar I’m giving November 20th, 12-1:30 CDT, 2020 called “Managing Difficult People”.  Click here for info.

Protect yourself by managing your emotions, staying connected and breathing deeply when anxious.