Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach

Staying Friends With Conspiracy Theorists

It’s weird to find out someone you care about believes in conspiracy theories. But as long as the theories are relatively tame, like the existence of Big Foot or time travelers, it’s not too difficult to navigate. In fact, it’s pretty entertaining.

But things get increasingly worrying when someone’s beliefs excuse harmful acts and diminish immense suffering, such as a denial of the Holocaust.

Hearing someone fall prey to such views is devastating. It makes you feel as if your friend or family member lost their humanity and became a monster. 

While shocking, it’s important to remember that people typically don’t hold onto conspiracy theories because of the claims they make. They gravitate towards such perspectives for a whole host of different reasons.

Such as control in an uncertain time, a distrust of authorities, a sense of power, or a sense of community. Things that are all pretty relatable. We’re all familiar with losing faith in a government, and feelings of overwhelm, powerlessness, or loneliness.

Recognising ourselves in conspiracy thinkers makes it easier to look at them with compassion rather than disgust. And that’s a great start.

Because the worst thing you can do is to get into an argument and fight their outlook with logic. It’ll likely only harden their resolve. Not to mention, hurt the relationship.

The better alternative?

Focus on conversations that nurture laughter and love. Stay away from changing their minds. What’s so important in thinking alike anyway? 

Seeing ourselves in others and feeling understood is, of course, one of the things we desire most in life. But even with the person who understands us most, we won’t ever see eye to eye on everything. 

Is it really such a problem to have a loved one believe the Earth is flat or that 5G technology is responsible for the spread of COVID-19? Does it undermine their capacity for tenderness, kindness or warmth? Hardly.

That’s decided by their personality, not their views on disease and politics. 

Plus, if you’re still on good terms with most of your family members, you’re probably an expert in being compassionate. 

Families are the testing grounds of love. When we’re born, we’re thrown into a living situation with a group of people who are hugely different from us. Not just in terms of character, but also in age and experience. 

Living in a house of people whom we can’t escape from until we’re affluent enough to leave teaches us just how little personal differences matter.

We don’t need to be compatible to get along, we need to get along to become compatible. Love breeds compatibility. Not the other way around.

If our loved one has beliefs that we disagree with, we should declare that territory off-limits. It’s a commonality that we simply don’t share. And that’s fine. There’s a role for private feelings in any relationship. Even if they happen to be something we find alarming or even insane.

To wrap it up, conspiracy theories are rarely the issue. It’s the people who home in on them and forget everything else about a person that are the problem.

By Jeroen Elsing
Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach