Dos and Don’ts for Discussing Politics with Family Members

Year after year, family and friends gather to celebrate the holidays, but it can be challenging if those you love most differ in political opinion.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when discussing politics with relatives.

Don’t:

Talk Politics Constantly

No matter how everyone’s opinions intersect, it can be easy to fixate on politics.

Remember that meaningful conversations can center around other topics. Kalina Silverman’s TEDx talk has good advice for skipping the small talk.

Forget to Decompress

Did a conversation get heated? Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Go on a walk, sit down with a book or take a bath.

Steve Williams has some good tips for self-care.

Resurrect the Same Arguments

It’s easy to become exhausted from cycling through the same arguments. Sometimes the effort is worth it — like when a relative keeps making bigoted remarks and needs to be called out. However, other times people come to an impasse on an opinion that doesn’t directly hurt a marginalized group — and they won’t ever agree.

Know when to change the subject or decide to agree to disagree.

Demonize Those Who Disagree

Sometimes pushing too hard against someone’s opinion can make them more dedicated to their ideas. Be careful to attack the problem, not the person.

Use Jargon

People don’t always understand the language that those across the aisle use. Try your best to speak plainly, so you won’t be misunderstood.

Do:

Listen More Than You Talk

If you genuinely want to discuss politics, try to consider why the other person has formed their opinion. Even if you disagree, at least you’ll realize where they’re coming from, and be able to convey your ideas more effectively.

Asking questions shows you’re interested in engaging — not “listening” like the woman in the above video.

Create Boundaries

If you don’t want to talk about something, you always are allowed to draw that line. And it’s perfectly acceptable to walk away if those boundaries aren’t respected.

Call Out Bigotry

Picking your battles is important, especially when there are a bunch of opinionated people in one place.

However, if you are in a place of privilege – maybe you’re a straight person who hears something homophobic, a white person who witnesses a racist behavior or a man who hears something sexist — you are in a unique position to speak out against casual bigotry. And you should. 

Care2 has some useful tips on being an ally to LGBTQ folks, people of color and women during the holidays.

Tell Personal Stories

Sometimes the best way to reach someone who disagrees is to make the issue personal. Talk about why your political stance matters to you.

When someone says something you don’t believe, you can tell them that that’s not your experience. It’s much easier to relate to stories than statistics.

Be Compassionate

When you view someone’s stance as misinformed, it pays off to approach them with understanding. Your views have probably evolved over time, too.

As Kimber Simpkins writes in The Body Is Not an Apology, “How would you have wanted to be treated before your eyes were opened?”

Photo Credit: Loren Kerns/Flickr

47 comments

Marie W
Marie W11 months ago

Thanks

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Chad A
Chad Andersonabout a year ago

Thank you.

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Patrice Z
Patrice Zabout a year ago

Good points to remind us again. However, I have come to remind people after the election, we are now discussing governance and life. It is very important to make people aware of what our elected officials are now doing which will greatly effect our lives and the lives of our fellow citizens. A democratic republic requires citizen participation. The political is personal, but more so participation is NOT optional!

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Dan Blossfeld
Dan Blossfeldabout a year ago

Brian F.,
No, I am not questioning W. Rather, your claim that most support Stein and Sanders.

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Amanda M
Amanda Mabout a year ago

Since Twitler's screwing up this country has my parents as well as me in a frazzle, this year we made it a simple rule at my parents' house: no discussing politics at all! This may sound impossible, especially since my husband actually VOTED for Twitler (fortunately, that's his only major flaw!), but we managed to pull it off. At one point my husband forgot and tried to interject something related to Twitler, but I killed that idea real quick and changed the subject without missing a beat. And RK R, we did inadvertently pass the foods to the LEFT at the table! BWAHAHA!

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Kathryn I
Kathryn Iabout a year ago

This is the very reason why I refuse to associate with any of my expanded family members; they're all just as ignorant as all other Republicans "in these parts" of the backward State of Mississippi!! I will eat alone (except for my dog!) any day, thank you!

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John W
John Wabout a year ago

Let the hypocrisy flow through you!

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John W
John Wabout a year ago

The hypocrisy is strong with this one!

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Clare O
Clare O'Bearaabout a year ago

Even if you disagree with someone, find some point you can agree on.

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Clare O
Clare O'Bearaabout a year ago

th

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