I grew up in a very liberal area. Most of the people I knew were quite scathing of conservative views and there was never really any question among my high school friends when it came to what we believed in. Of course, I had been exposed to individuals with different beliefs, but they always seemed to be in the minority, and their opinions weren't respected at my high school. The area I lived in and went to school in was very urban and diverse, so many of the issues that liberals and conservatives constantly disagree on were issues you could not turn a blind eye to if you lived where I did.
Senior year I was accepted to Rutgers, and moving even the short distance to New Brunswick was quite a culture shock when it came to people's political views. I had never spent much time with people outside of Hudson County, the place I grew up in, and I found that many people from south Jersey have very different political views than the ones I have grown up with. It's difficult to make friends, and then halfway through the friendship realize many of your beliefs strongly differ.
Some of my friends did surprise me when I discovered they had conservative beliefs. In the past, I would never picture myself associating with people who did not have similar beliefs to me, because to me, my political beliefs are rooted in the morals that make up who I am. It is hard to imagine being close with people who do not share those same morals. However, I learned to navigate the situation. Fighting and arguing constantly when you disagree with someone is not productive. Usually people believe what they believe because they were raised that way, so challenging their beliefs can seem like a personal attack, and is often unsuccessful when it comes to changing minds.
Exposure and experience is what I find people learn from the most. I avoid talking about politics with people who I know think very different things from me, because I know my opinions will not change their mind. If you truly believe in a cause, your passion will inspire others. They might need the issue to touch them personally before they can begin to think about it differently. I am understanding that some people have grown up in a different environment, where the issues that seem so important to me are merely abstract to them.
I voice my opinions strongly and confidently when I am asked. I make it a habit to challenge any offense behavior that anyone might display in front of me. But I've learned that no matter how close you may be to a friend, forcing your beliefs upon them will never be a productive way to communicate or open their mind. I believe most strongly in the power of education, especially first hand experience education. This will make anyone, including myself, think about their world a bit differently.