One of my colleagues is dreading his family’s Thanksgiving gathering—he knows politics will come up and discord will follow. Families argue about all sorts of things, of course, but politics can be a particular trouble spot. When it comes to politics, “Most people are very adamant that their particular views are correct and that the opposing views are 100% wrong,” explains Los Angeles psychologist Leonard Felder, PhD, author of When Difficult Relatives Happen to Good People. What to do…
Arrange a truce with a chronic political sparring partner. Pick a private moment early on to say, “Hey, let’s not talk politics tonight—you know how we get. Aunt Shirley worked so hard on this meal, we don’t want to upset her,” suggests Felder. Alternately, you could ask someone who has lots of clout with your adversary to step in if trouble starts. He could say something like, “Enough—let’s get back to the thankfulness of the holiday.”
Focus on listening, not arguing. If politics comes up, make it your goal to listen attentively and truly understand this family member’s opinion. Listening shows respect for a speaker, which can dial down the anger. Then you could say, “That’s interesting. I have a different perspective, but there’s wisdom to yours as well.”
Conspicuously change the topic. You could say, “We’re both smart people, but we see this differently.” Then change the topic. Or say, “I’m not going to talk politics today.” That won’t change America’s political future for the worse…but it could change your family’s Thanksgiving for the better!