As we prepare for the holidays, some of us have a nagging feeling that the conversation might, and maybe should, turn to the current political realities our country is struggling through right now.
But if you have a politically divided family this can be very scary. For many families discussions have slowly begun to feel like navigating a minefield.
Housing prices, medical bills, the racist history of Thanksgiving, kneeling during the football game, the way we choose to celebrate Christmas…every topic can feel fraught with talking points and how we feel about the president.
And some of us are just done talking about issues. And I get it. Things are toxic and if you just need to keep your head low and survive, than do what you need to do. I have been kicked under the table to JUST STOP at a few family dinners.
But many of us want to talk about big ideas with people we care about.
Maybe its a family member you miss talking about important things.
Maybe its someone that keeps sharing toxic shit on their social media, and you feel like its time for a face to face talk about it.
Maybe you had some bad social media interaction that you want to clear up.
Maybe its someone you disagree with but are legitimately interested in their perspective.
Here are a few tips for having a successful holiday conversation about politics:
Make a plan BEFORE you meet.
Don’t just start wait for a lull in the conversation when someone says, “How about we watch some football?” and you jump in with, “Oh yeah? I think the NFL is a racist institution”
People who came for dinner should not have to sit through your TED talk. That is not fair to anyone.
And frankly its not very productive. This is a family dinner not Occupy Wall Street.
And a discussion is usually only productive if people actually want to be there.
Make a plan outside of general hang out time
Plan to go for a walk, meet for coffee before or after dinner, or meet in a separate room of the house. This will help cut down on complicated family dynamics.
Make it an “opt-in” opportunity
And decide beforehand if anyone at dinner can join, or if it is by invitation only. It’s okay to say, “We wanted to take a few minutes to connect just the two of us.”
Decide if what is shared is private or can be communicated to others
It is important for people to feel safe to be brave in the conversation. This means that you may need to keep your conversation private. Many of us are more open to discussion our opinions if we know we are not going on the record. You may learn that someone actually doesn’t agree with their outspoken family. I have heard about wives who felt the need to hide their votes from their overbearing toxic husbands. Some people don’t fell they have the emotional freedom to share their opinion in their church or family.
Determine how long to talk…don’t just wait to lose patience.
End it on a good note! This is a holiday and you may not see this person you care about for a while. So don’t just wait for patience to fray until you explode and then leave regretting you even tried to have a discussion. Agree to take a lap around the park, talk for a half hour, discuss between dinner and pie. And then stop on a good note. Maybe its a common value or just telling the person, “I really enjoying talking with you! Thank you!”
If you are looking for a conversation starter maybe check out our Podcast
This fall I have been the guest progressive Christian on a conservative Fox News radio show with Walter Hudson. He’s a black libertarian evangelical and I’m a white progressive pastor. And we have been practicing talking across the political and religious spectrum in kind and respectful ways.
This week we had a conversation about how to talk about politics over the Thanksgiving table in a politically divided family. You can listen to the full podcast here. We role modeled how to have a civil discussion when two people disagree.
Maybe it would be a good conversation starter with the family member you want to talk to!