Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and if there’s one thing that Turkey Day is famous for, it’s the meal. The other thing that we prepare for on Thanksgiving is uncomfortable political discussions.
Since the 2016 election, party lines have only become more divided and political conversations more heated. No matter what side of the aisle you’re on, it’s important to know how to navigate these talks without ruining relationships. At the end of the day, we think family is too important to ruin over discussions.
While politics can be essential, and an active population is important to a healthy democracy, families are equally vital, and we shouldn’t forget that. With that in mind, how can we talk politics without ruining dinner? Or, how can we avoid these topics entirely?
Know Who You Can Talk to (and Who You Can’t)
Before we cover the ways to talk politics constructively, we need to cover who you can broach this subject with. Generally, someone you can talk politics with is even-tempered, informed, and open to working towards a consensus. At the very least, they don’t view your opposing beliefs as an attack on their own beliefs. Essentially, they’re somebody who’s read this article! Unfortunately, you may not be able to tell if you can talk politics with someone until after you’ve broached the subject with them for the first time.
At the very least, someone you can talk politics with doesn’t view your opposing beliefs as an attack on their own beliefs.
It may be tempting to not talk politics with anyone who differs from you, but this can be problematic as well. It’s important to embrace and engage people you disagree with, so you can get the full spectrum of opinions and views. There are some people you just can’t talk politics with, however. You may love them with all your heart, but the inner workings of the U.S. government may be a topic that you two are just too far apart on. This is okay, and it may be worth occasionally trying to talk politics if it’s something you’re both interested in, but there are a few ways to know if this isn’t one of those times.
If you’ve talked politics before, and they (or cough… you… cough) can’t follow the suggestions below, we recommend just avoiding the topic completely. While you can try to talk constructively, you can’t control how someone else is going to act or if they’re going to say something that gets your goat. Instead, you could try talking about football or how their year has been. Just be careful to steer away from chatting about the President’s latest tweet. Even simply opening the door to politics can cascade into an argument that engulfs dinner.
Remember That You’re Family
If you want to talk politics at Thanksgiving with a relative, always keep in mind that you’re family. This isn’t some random person you’re talking with over the internet — which shouldn’t really matter because you should still play nice — but I digress. Just make sure that when you enter the conversation, you’re not talking to your relative like they’re an enemy. You’re talking to a loved one, so keep the conversation civil. After all, you’ll probably be seeing each other again in a few weeks for the holidays!
Just make sure that when you enter the conversation, you’re not talking to your relative like they’re an enemy.
What does keeping it civil actually mean? First and foremost, it means being respectful and not making things personal. You can disagree but stay civil. Don’t belittle each other’s intelligence or character by including personal attacks. Instead, treat each other like adults and stick to the facts. For example, if someone says something you don’t think is true, don’t call them a liar. Instead, ask them where they heard that assertion. This can help to view this conversation as less of a contest to be won and more as a discussion. That actually leads us to the next tip…
Keep an Open Mind
When talking politics, it’s important to view the dialogue as a discussion and not a contest to be won. Why? Viewing politics as a contest is emblematic of the current division in our country. It splits opposing sides into teams. When politics becomes a zero-sum game, with only winners and losers, compromise becomes impossible.
When politics becomes a zero-sum game, with only winners and losers, compromise becomes impossible.
If you feel like you’re talking to someone who can’t meet you in the middle, it can get incredibly frustrating. It’s also how a conversation can turn ugly. You don’t have control over someone else, but you can be willing to learn and be wrong. Most importantly, work toward the middle, finding the common grounds you can agree on, and build from there. This doesn’t mean you have to compromise on your core beliefs, but look to build commonalities.
Know When to Stop
Perhaps the most important skill you can have when discussing politics or other potentially contentious subjects is knowing when to end the talk. If you’ve both tried to chat politics, can’t seem to agree, and are close to losing your tempers, it’s just not working. Now’s probably the time to end the conversation. Some things are just not worth ruining a relationship over, and a Thanksgiving political debate is one of those things. A quick deep breath, and a “Hey, it might be good to switch subjects,” can save you more than a few headaches.
Some things are just not worth ruining a relationship over, and a Thanksgiving political debate is one of those things.
It also helps to remember that the reason political conversations get so heated is because both parties care about the direction of this country. You both want what you believe is best for the United States. And, you both care about each other. These are the important things to hold on to, even as you get into the nitty gritty of politics.
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Thanksgiving is a day when we’re thankful for our loved ones, but maybe not so much for their political beliefs. That said, politics is an important subject to many people around the globe, and you may find yourself in some uncomfortable conversations this year. If you follow the tips in this article and remember that, at the end of the day, you’re family, you should be able to navigate any topic without ruining Turkey Day. Happy Thanksgiving from everyone at the Shop & Enroll blog!