What Sanders' Endorsement Of Clinton Can Teach Us About Fighting Fair

Rule No. 1: It doesn't matter who's right.
U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders endorses U.S Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at a campaign event in Portsmouth, N.H., July 12, 2016.
Boston Globe via Getty Images
U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders endorses U.S Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at a campaign event in Portsmouth, N.H., July 12, 2016.

Bernie Sanders endorsed Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee for president Tuesday, ending a long, and at times bitter, battle for the nomination.

“I have come here to make it as clear as possible as to why I am endorsing Hillary Clinton and why she must become our next president,” Sanders said. He noted that while he and Clinton disagreed on a number of issues, the two campaigns were able to unite at the Democratic Platform Committee over the weekend.

“We produced, by far, the most progressive platform in the history of the Democratic Party,” he said.

Prior to Tuesday, however, the two candidates were anything but unified. Over the course of the primaries, Sanders called Clinton “unqualified” to be president and the “anointed candidate” because of her ties to Wall Street and her powerful support from super Pacs.

While Sanders’ supporters were disappointed by his concession to Clinton, ending an exhausting argument can be a healthy move, according to clinical psychologist and relationships expert Seth Meyers.

“In the case of Sanders and Clinton, hanging on to his arguments and not conceding would come across as childish, spiteful and rigid,” Meyers said. “Sometimes concession reflects a healthy response, especially when it reflects acceptance of a non-negotiable reality.”

Leonard Felder, a psychologist in west Los Angeles and the author of multiple books on personal growth, seemed to agree.

“Instead of obsessing about who is right and who is wrong, you get your health and your mental workspace back when you say ‘Neither one of us is perfect but I appreciate what you were offering here, and we both will be wiser and stronger from joining together,’” Felder explained, noting that ending an argument can open up ways to be excellent partners again.

It wasn’t just supporters who lambasted Sanders for mending fences with his former foe. Predictably, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump joined the fray, calling Sanders a sellout on Twitter ― which is exactly what you shouldn’t do when someone collaborates with an opponent.

(Respectful) disagreements can be a learning opportunity.

If you want to apply Sanders’ wisdom to your own life, try reframing the way you think about disagreements.

Most importantly, don’t think about ending an argument as giving in. Instead, focus on understanding the common goals you and your opponent share. In Sanders’ case, this meant uniting with Clinton against Trump, whose economic policies Sanders called “reckless.”

“The major political task that together we face in the next five months is to make certain that Donald Trump is defeated and defeated badly,” Sanders said.

Clinton responded by addressing Sanders’ key campaign promises ― Wall Street regulation and campaign finance reform ― when she addressed his supporters.

“’Giving in’ is not about defeat but rather about building and growing as a result of including the wisdom from both you and the person who sees things differently from you,” Felder said. “You don’t lose by ending the argument, you gain by having multiple insights and perspectives.”

You can also defuse the situation if the other person is steering your discussion into unsporting territory.

“You can say, ‘I understand now why you feel the way you do and I hope you will appreciate why I feel differently,’” Felder said. “’Let’s make sure we treat each other with kindness even though we strongly disagree about X.’”

For Meyers, conceding is especially important once you’ve identified that the other individual isn’t backing down. “Otherwise you are merely arguing for sport,” he said.

Now that doesn’t sound like anyone we know, does it?

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