How To Talk About Politics with Family

The holidays are always a wonderful time to enjoy family, lots of family. It’s all about spending time together, so much family time that by January 2 you promise yourself you won’t utter another word to another human being for the next six months. .

Let’s face it: the holidays are awesome and fun but also overwhelming and exhausting.

Add to the normal stressors the recent election and if you’re not careful your future promises to hold many explosive dinnertime conversations. Triple this prediction when you throw in booze.

People are passionate about politics and just because you’re related to someone doesn’t mean you see eye to eye on everything. In fact, there’s a good chance you have a few points on which you don’t agree. Call me crazy but I think this is true.

Here are some tips I’d like to share to make your holiday season a peaceful, pleasant and fun occasion. I call this, “Rachel’s Three Simple Rules to Making the Christmas Season a Fun-filled Time for All.”

Don’t talk about politics. Seriously. Don’t do it.

Really, I mean it. Don’t talk about politics.

I’m not lying. Don’t even think about talking about politics.

And that’s the advice I’ve got for you. Follow Rules 1, 2 and 3 and everything will go well for you and your loved ones this holiday season. I cannot stress enough the importance of following these rules. To stray from this in any way is madness.

I know it might seem like I’m joking but I’m absolutely serious. Now is not the time to talk about politics. For starters, the election is fresh on everyone’s mind. And if you think you understand where someone is coming from in who they voted for, think again. None of us can truly, totally understand where another person stands on every single issue. Someone else voting for the candidate you hated doesn’t necessarily signal anything.

So, okay. Here’s one way you are allowed to talk politics: you keep your mouth closed and just listen. That’s the smart way. Don’t go into any conversations with big plans to change minds and open hearts. That will end poorly, very poorly indeed. If you really truly want to “talk politics” then you can just sit back and try to figure out where your brother/cousin/mother-in-law is coming from and really listen to what they say.

OR you can compliment them on the good looking sweater and focus on the delicious meal in front of you.

This is not a cop-out. I repeat: this is not a cop-out. Keeping it real during the holiday season is not about getting all our junk out on the table. It’s not the time to acknowledge all the ways we don’t see eye-to-eye. Christmas is about the gift of family, of love and life and joy. Have a glass of wine! Toast all the goodness God has to offer.

This works, trust me.

Did you know that you can have vastly different political views with family members and still get along swimmingly? You might even realize that you have more in common with this person that you knew. The key is to focus on all that you share — your love for each other, your family ties, a history with people you love — and not let your differences get in the way.

At the end of the day (or days or week) what is worth working on is the relationship. What I have come to realize and believe is this: nothing, no ideology or political candidate or stance, is more important to me than a relationship. Which means I will choose to ignore everything but love when it comes to dealing with people.

There is always more in common than we think, especially when things are heated. Take a step back, say a little prayer, and ask Jesus for wisdom and patience and lots of love.

And pray the person on the other end can do the same.

This originally appeared in The Southern Cross.

Comments

  1. I think it’s sad to say that “working on relationships” excludes discussion of politics. If people are just spouting their ill-informed opinions, right–there’s no discussion there. But I would hope that, in the closest of our relationships, with our families, we could begin to really discuss and learn from one another. We have college kids streaming back home for the holidays. They have their opinions, they’ve been exposed to different ways of thinking and they’re bringing all that home. Yeah! This is where we NEED to discuss politics and everything else important in life. This is where we need to listen to each other respectfully and give reasoned responses (and you better not open your mouth at our dinner table with an statement you can’t back up–or prepare to withdraw). I grant you, if Uncle Joe is just broadcasting his prejudices and “no one can tell me different” opinions, tell him he looks spiffy in his new shirt and move on (but that really doesn’t, in the end, “build a relationship” with Uncle Joe). But maybe we could try with just one other person, maybe a relative, this season to raise the bar higher and engage in some truly meaningful discussion.