Thanksgiving is a time for good company, delicious food and reconnecting with family. But the fun and food-filled holiday can quickly turn contentious should politics arise.
For some families, it may be best to avoid the subject altogether, said Omri Gillath, a psychology professor at the University of Kansas whose research focuses on close relationships.
Each family is different, he previously told Fox News, but if “you have previous experience and know it doesn’t go well, keep it off the table.”
“Make the rule clear: You’re all here to enjoy the holiday, so let’s not talk politics,” he added.
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Still, there are ways to talk politics without turning nasty. Check out some of Gillath’s top tips.
Remember who you’re talking to
The people around the Thanksgiving table are your family members — not politicians in Washington D.C.
“You’re not a politician representing a certain party. Avoid what our representatives are doing and be nice to each other,” Gillath said.
“You’re not a politician representing a certain party. Avoid what our representatives are doing and be nice to each other.”
Gillath also said your family members on “both sides of the political map have uncertainties and anxieties” regarding the current administration — and encouraged anyone talking about hot-button political issues to be mindful of that.
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“Prime them with a sense of security,” he said. In other words, make sure your family members feel like they are in a secure environment to share their thoughts and opinions, even if they conflict with your own.
“Take the other person’s perspective to try to understand why they feel the way they do.”
Gillath encouraged those participating to “keep it light “ — and throw in an innocuous joke to prevent things from getting too heavy.
If the conversation escalates to a sensitive place despite the jokes, it’s easy to attack a family member’s personality or character when feeling upset or hurt. But no matter how tempting, it’s never a good idea to go for a low-blow.
“One of the main issues is that things can go very quickly from [a] national level to a personal one,” he said. Instead, Gillath suggested family members “help each other understand — be specific in your argument — ‘I feel x when you’re saying y.’”
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“You don’t want bullying or fights that continue after the holidays,” he said.
Make someone the mediator
Delegating someone to be the conversation mediator is also a good way to keep things civil.
Gillath suggested that people can only talk when they’re holding a specific object — like a ball, for instance.
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But if your family can handle it, talking politics can be important
Avoiding politics isn’t always good, Gillath said, adding that “we do need to try to open as many lines of communication as we can between the two sides.”
“Even if you know your relatives don’t align with you, we need to talk to each other and people need the opportunity to talk about their concerns and worries,” he said.