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Surviving the Holidays with a Relative from a Different Political PartyNovember 18th, 2019

It happens inevitably. We show up for a joyful holiday gathering with high expectations for family togetherness and giving thanks. Then someone brings up that dreaded word… Impeachment.

How do we keep the peace with family of a different political persuasion?

First, remember this is your family – your peeps – and you want to enjoy the holidays and keep the peace. You have long-term, loving relationships and everyone wants the best for each other. Go into the gathering with positive intentions for peace and harmony.

If a political conversation starts, don’t take the bait. Deflect the topic. You can say “Hey, let’s talk about this lovely holiday and how great it is to be together!”

Specifically, pivot the conversation to kids, family, work, school, sports, life – basically, anything but politics. Ask: How’s the family? Where are you going next for vacation? What big projects are you involved with at work? How about that (football, hockey, basketball) team? Did you hear about Emily’s new job? Raise subjects that you have in common.

If you get into that dreaded political conversation, use the “Newscaster Tactic.” That is, ask questions. Be reflective and focus on the facts. Say: Hmm, interesting. Is that true? How do you know? On what do you base that statement? What’s your source? Why do you think that?

Sometimes you have a feeling in advance that you’re going to get into a spirited conversation. If that’s the case, then come prepared with facts. Don’t argue opinions. That only escalates to emotional outbursts. If the other person makes a good point, say, “Good point!” And if you don’t have facts, that’s another reason to de-escalate. You can suggest to talk another time when everyone knows more about the situation.

Avoid personal attacks, which will destroy the holiday for sure. And beware of trigger words that are meant to get your blood boiling. These are simple words or phrases just about everyone has in their family that quickly remind us of another emotional experience. Maybe there was a long-ago dispute about a bicycle, where a brother or sister got a better one than you did. Or perhaps someone couldn’t finish a tough hike, and others made fun of them. Just mentioning a “bicycle,” or “hiking,” can get folks rolling their eyes, feeling emotional, and maybe even shouting at each other. Recognizing these possibilities allows you the chance to think about how you can lower the temperature in case they do come up. Try to let it go.

If you can’t agree, then call a truce. Agree on one thing – Wow, there’s a lot of excitement and opinion out there, on all sides! Agree to disagree. Everyone has opinions, so chalk this one up to differing perspectives.

Remember, you’re dealing with family. Keeping your long-term relationship is more important than winning a short-term argument. It’s okay to disagree, but try to be respectful. It’s also okay to deflect the conversation and avoid the dispute.

And while this may seem a bit silly, it can definitely help set the tone. Start out the day with a sign on the door to put people in the right frame of mind: “House Rules: No politics, no gossip, and speak only of kind and loving things.” Then if anyone begins to broach a verboten topic, all the guests can hold each other accountable to the House Rules. Kinda fun, and has a good chance of working.

Most important, have a great holiday season!

About The Author

Barry Moline

Barry MolineHave a work, life or communications question for Barry? Contact Barry and he'll put it in his blogging queue. You can send him a note to learn about Barry's group speaking options as well.