This morning I woke up to bitter cold winds, autumnal scenes in which leaves change their color and fall from branches, and a whole lot of Christmas themed Starbucks coffee cups. Holiday season is right around the corner, and whether we enjoy thinking about it or not, for a lot of us this means making the trek back home for Thanksgiving and Winter Break. While I, for the most part, sigh a sweet breath of relief every time I think about going home to my own bed and visiting with family, the question “Are you excited to be going home for break?” is oftentimes met with uneasiness from my surrounding peers. Let’s be real, after the recent presidential election, America is seemingly more polarized than ever, and this is not a pattern atypical of most families. Whether you or your family voted red or blue this November, talking about political differences, especially at the Thanksgiving dinner table, is a feat that many are not willing or prepared to tackle. According to a HuffPost/YouGov Poll, 23 percent of Americans said they’d already gotten into a heated debate with a family member over this year’s presidential race and nearly 40 percent of Americans feel tension with loved ones over this election. In a time where political beliefs are doing more to separate than to unify individuals it is crucial that we examine healthy communicative practices to enact during this holiday season- because while we get to pick our political beliefs, we do not get to choose who constitutes our family and that shouldn’t have ruin the connections we have with one another.
Go on a trip with me, if you would, to Pennsylvania as the LucilleontheBall annual family Thanksgiving dinner kicks off. Surrounding the table are my parents and brother cracking jokes about their latest work experiences, two grandparents who chime in with stories of how my mother and her brother were, quite possibly, the weirdest children alive, and several cousins building mashed potatoe castles and sucking up noodles like straws. Then, all of a sudden, a lull emerges and right-winged Uncle Mike swoops in with a racy political comment.
- Roll your eyes and mumble under your breath, clearly agitated.
- Combat Uncle Mike’s comment with a comeback of your own.
- Find a gif of Donald Trump on your phone in which he repeats “WRONG” and play it, at full volume, over and over again until your Uncle stops talking.
Okay, so none of these choices are really gonna get you anywhere other than the kids table- a secluded island off the coast of “We’re taking you seriously” island. Instead consider following Bustle’s guidebook for dealing with family members who don’t follow your political beliefs:
- First, set boundaries. Before engaging in any type of political discourse, take a moment to think about the discussions you’re really interested in having with your loved ones and be real with them. Don’t let any family member be uncomfortably silenced into agitation during what should be a celebration of family.
- If you do chose to engage in political discussions, do so from a position of empathy. Being able to see someone as a logical product of their circumstances, even if they are reacting to those circumstances in ways that seem irrational is difficult, but it is key to gaining the respect of those around you. Yes, let your family know what your opinions are and ask for their respect- but that respect has got to be mutually given and received in order to work.
- Lastly, think about why you love your family member who may have voted differently from you and cling to that. Part of what makes political differences among family so important is that it forces us to step out of the homogenous political and social networks in which interact and instead, learn how to communicate with people who are different from us- a trait of which political parties in this country are in dire need.
Whether your holidays are filled with political discourse or not, do not let differences in beliefs become the reason for the season. Enjoy your breaks, eat lots of turkey, and keep on keeping on.