5 tips to navigating political discussions during the holidays

The holidays are upon us! In addition to the splendid food, decorations, and beautiful fall colors, we are in the midst of a particularly heated political environment this year.

Many people feel that it's best to avoid politics during family gatherings. Around this time last year, a poll found that one in three US citizens do their best to avoid discussing politics during holiday gatherings. Politics are, in fact, among the least favorite topics to discuss among Americans when spending time with friends and family.

This year, the political situation in the US is particularly divisive. Each side is blaming the other for the problems our country is facing. The difference in values between the two sides means that many people feel one side only moves forward at the other side’s expense. Here are five tips to navigating political discussions during the holidays. 

5 tips to keep the peace this season

1. Make an effort to discuss what matters

There are many other topics to discuss besides politics. Often during holiday gatherings, we are visiting with family and friends we don’t see often. What’s going on in their lives? There are many questions to explore: careers, school, and what’s it’s like to live in another part of the country.

Political views are likely the least interesting thing that is going on in the lives of the people you care about.

2. If needed, set some ground rules 

If your family has a history of getting into arguments over politics, set some ground rules in advance. If you have different viewpoints than the rest of your family, make an effort not to bring up politics. You can even agree to disagree ahead of time.  

If you have a different viewpoint compared to others and the topic is brought up, don’t take the bait and start arguing. One of the benefits of maturity is the ability to accept that other people have different viewpoints than you.  

3. Try to see the other person's point of view

People can have different points of view-- even different political points of view-- and not conflict with each other. If you get into a political discussion with someone from “the other side,” it’s a good opportunity to practice listening and honestly trying to see the other person's point of view. Usually, they have some good points, and they may have considered the issue from a position you haven’t thought about. We live in a time where different opinions and facts are more available to us than ever before. Take time to appreciate the fact that we live in an environment where we are safe and are still allowed to express our views.

4. Accept others as they are

Your uncle may always have what seems to be the wrong and extreme viewpoint. Remember he has seen different things and lived through different times. Accept he is always going to think differently than you. Don’t let his viewpoints change your core feelings and ruin the relationship.

5. Limit alcohol

This is always a good idea for family gatherings. Alcohol removes inhibitions, and you are more likely to say inappropriate things that may cause hurt feeling or anger. This is the last thing you want during a family gathering. Remember, holiday occasions are a time for joy and connection. Keep control of how much alcohol you consume so you won’t regret what you say and avoid damaging important relationships.

Help is always available

If you are looking for guidance or would like help navigating family conflict or if the season is getting you down, reach out to a therapist for help, either in person or through online therapy.

A note about the author

Dr. Gerald Brown is an experienced and compassionate therapist and life coach and author. His practice is in the Cornelius and Statesville area, North Carolina. Dr. Brown offers Concierge Therapy and online therapy you can visit his website here. 



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