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How Can I Discuss Politics with Family?

By: Danielle Bertini, LPC

With the upcoming presidential election right around the corner as well as the holiday season, I have found that many people are anxious with not knowing how to potentially discuss politics with their families. Although not every family structure talks about politics, some families enjoy talking about politics the same way some families talk about their favorite sports teams: with a one-sided passion that they expect everyone else to share.

However, talking about politics is more personal. Politicians are arguing about economic and legislative decisions that affect people’s livelihoods. Here is a good place to start with this conversation (Degges-White, 2017): 

  1. First and foremost, you need to lay the ground rules. It’s important to establish these rules early on, especially if you know family members having opposing viewpoints and things might turn ugly. A good thing to establish might be to avoid using mind-altering substances during these conversations, such as alcohol and caffeine. These can cause conversations to become much more heated and off the rails. 
  2. When navigating these conversations, try to criticize the political actions or legislative issues rather than the family member who supports them. 
  3. Make sure to not belittle family members who don’t match your own beliefs. Things like this can create grudges and severed family ties for years.
  4. Although it’s important to point out where you might disagree with a certain politician’s questionable actions, try to keep the conversation as positive as possible by focusing on the good things that political figures are trying to do. 
  5. People often feel an allegiance to and a sense of shared identity with the candidates, just like enthusiastic sports fans tend to do. Because of this, people can often feel insulted when you insult their “picks.” 
  6. When you come across a topic that might be triggering or a hot button topic, encourage your family members to help you better understand their point of view. Be curious, ask questions, and be open to hearing about how they see the world.
  7. Share your opinions with a sense of maturity and focus on facts rather than emotions. It’s important to care deeply about these topics, and that will show through your discussions. Model for your family how to discuss these sensitive topics without doing any harm. Show them how you want to be respected back.
  8. If you see the conversation is headed towards a direction that is unproductive and no longer a friendly debate, try changing the subject by asking a question that switches the track things are headed on. Find a link that is a neutral segue and brings the topic to a shared memory or a positive spin on the topic.
  9. At the end of the day, families are not chosen. With that in mind, don’t let their political opinions or views influence what you feel your role in your family should be. You are not required to change their minds. You can have these conversations while also enjoying the rest of your time spent with your family and socializing with who you choose. 
  10. Lastly, if you truly want to affect positive change in the world, you might have a better chance by reaching beyond just your family and joining up with others who share your similar views. There is power in numbers. That being said, you can still help your grandma or aunt stand up for their senior citizen rights and help them write a letter to their local representative. Make sure to still offer help and gratitude where you can.

References

Degges-White, S. (2017, November 20). Ten Tips for Talking Politics at the Holiday Table

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/lifetime-connections/201711/ten-tips-talking-politics-the-holiday-table.

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