As the holiday season draws near and some of us will be seeing extended family – whether in small gatherings or virtually – it can be expected that at some point the 2020 election will be mentioned. A particularly polarizing election, lines have been drawn, sides chosen, and tempers seem to boil no matter your political position. During times like these, a global pandemic no less, many are emotionally drained from long term lifestyle changes and seeing family should be a positive, comforting experience.
The old saying goes, “you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family.” Human nature leads us to choose friends with similar views and values as us, but families are a whole other ball game. Combined with the natural tendency to be less filtered and less polite with family members, political arguments can get ugly – fast. Here are my tips for avoiding arguments or having civil discussions this season.
For those looking to avoid politics altogether:
Your family arguments go from 0-100 real quick and you’ve got a clear division of opinions. If you want to enjoy a politics-free holiday season, try out these tips:
- Focus on the Positives – You don’t get to see each other often, so you want to enjoy the time you do have together. Reminisce on shared experiences, have Grandma talk about what Dad was like growing up, or discuss similar interests!
- Remain Calm and Noncommittal – If someone does bring up politics, have uninterested responses such as “hmm,” then change the subject to something else. You might have relatives that are looking to cause a rise in others, so by staying calm, it should diffuse them.
For those looking to have civil conversations:
You know that politics will come up, but you want to use it as an opportunity to explain why have the views that you do. If this describes you, try out the following:
- Listen – A conversation is two-sided. If you want to explain your viewpoint, you’d better be prepared to respectfully listen to the other side too.
- Keep it One on One – Conversations of this nature tend to escalate quickly if there are “teams” or an audience. Tread lightly if others begin to join, shouting may ensue as people compete to have their voices heard.
- Acknowledge Each Other – The hallmark of this election is the stark division between political parties. Start to bridge that gap by recognizing when there’s an overlap in values and emphasize those.
- Speak to the Heart, Not the Head – “Facts” can and will be dispute. By speaking to personal experiences, your listener is more likely to sympathize and understand your viewpoint.
- Stay Humble – There’s no winning, but there is losing. Remember that the goal of the conversation is to foster understanding. When we have the need to always be right, we often drive the wedge even deeper.
Hopefully these tips will lead to a more enjoyable holiday season, no matter what path you take. Here’s to creating a more united 2021!