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How to Talk About Politics at Thanksgiving (If You Want to!)

As I was gathering my thoughts about the upcoming holiday and my favorite holiday, I was curious if I could connect my passion for politics with Thanksgiving. Recent polling from Quinnipiac University suggests that most Americans refrain from mentioning politics to family members during this time. While I agree that it is wise to avoid heated discussions, especially with those that we enjoy spending time with, perhaps we could consider some ways to cope and/or discuss events of political significance in a healthy way.

My suggestions:

  • Listen. People want to be heard, and it is a key factor in achieving a solid conversation. Plus, by listening, you have the opportunity to learn something new.

  • Don’t assume. People change their positions on a given topic, especially with personal experience. Even if someone you know identifies as a Democrat/Republican, he/she might not agree with every opinion of that party.

  • Acknowledge their viewpoint and then either agree/disagree. Without acknowledging someone's viewpoint, you might make someone feel as if their opinion/beliefs do not matter as much as yours. Addressing their political concerns will allow for a healthier relationship.

  • No yelling. Even if you feel strongly about an issue such as healthcare, immigration, or criminal justice, raising your voice will make others hesitant to discuss politics with you in the future. You can be assertive and confident in your viewpoints/interpretation of policy without being exceptionally loud.

Suggestions from experts:

  • Make “I” statements rather than “You” statements. Dan Harris, an ABC News reporter and someone with experience in people relations recommends Americans to express how they feel about a certain issue rather than projecting their feelings onto someone else. People can feel attacked if they are characterized in a certain way.

  • Don’t try to change minds. According to the Atlanta Behavioral Health Advocates in Psychology Today Magazine, “the existence of other beliefs does not have to threaten yours.” They emphasize the importance of staying curious in these scenarios.

  • Don’t attach emotion to politics. As one politician stated, a person is not “wrong or bad” if he/she interprets a situation differently (there are a few exceptions, perhaps). Emotion can cloud judgment, something not advantageous when it comes to enjoying Thanksgiving.

  • Find common ground: Karin Tamerius, a former psychiatrist and founder of Smart Politics, believes that families who are divided politically can still agree on certain aspects of policy. She encourages us to look for similarities among our viewpoints instead of solely focusing on what is different.

I hope this blog provides a bit of relief and insight for this year’s Thanksgiving and other events that might spark political conversations. Be sure to subscribe to the website for future messaging. If you have any other suggestions or tricks, feel free to comment below:

Happy Thanksgiving!



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