12/08/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Elective Friendships

One political poll reported that a large majority of voters said they would be frightened if the presidential candidate--other than the one they supported--won the election. It reminded me of how we live in our own little worlds.

The differences between the candidates were vast and I have to admit: Most of my friends have similar political leanings to my own. It isn't that we agree on every issue but, in general, we have shared values--which I consider an important component of close friendships.

To tell you the truth, my world is actually so small that I even have a hard time relating to people who don't like some of my favorite movies or television shows. How can we be friends if we don't even laugh at the same jokes? Well the election is over and, hopefully, most of my friendships will remain intact.

Depending on how opinionated and strident a person is--whether the topic is politics or popular culture--it's natural to feel alienated from people who aren't like us. But just as politics has the power to make strange bedfellows, if we focus on what we have in common rather than what sets us apart, it's a great way to build and strengthen our friendships.

Irene S. Levine, PhD is a freelance journalist and author. She holds an appointment as a professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine and is working on a book about female friendships that will be published by Overlook Press in 2009 and blogs about the same topic on The Friendship Blog. She just co-authored Schizophrenia for Dummies (Wiley, 2008).