5 Tips for Having Difficult Conversations with Family Members this Holiday Season



Despite the outcome of this election, tensions are still high and family members are bound to disagree on topics. It’s important to engage in difficult discussions with family members in order to come to meaningful conclusions and possibly greater understanding. 


If you struggle with engaging in these difficult conversations, read on below for some tips!


1. Realize that you won’t change anyone's mind after just one discussion

  • ​Be prepared for little to no change in one’s opinion after a single conversation. Unlearning views and forming new opinions takes time and it is important to be prepared for a lack of change after one discussion. Focus instead on creating dialogue rather than first attempting to persuade a relative to only see your point-of-view. 

​2. Set limits- both in time and what you’re willing to argue

  • There are political discussions and there are moral discussions. By drawing a line before a discussion with what is acceptable to argue for and against will generate a more productive discussion. Additionally, by giving yourself a timeframe for that first discussion, each person is able to contribute and state their case. 

​3. Actively listen during the conversation

  • ​If both parties commit to truly listening to one another, the discussion will lead to dialogue and create greater understanding. Judgement in a discussion will lead to nothing, so in order to move forward and talk politics with family, it is important to commit to listening and try to understand. 

4. Engage in the discussion when you’re in the right frame of mind

  • There is no point in engaging in a discussion if you will end up attacking someone and their beliefs. Attacking someone's beliefs will only alienate and further divide them. In order to have a meaningful conversation, stay calm and show respect for the other person, even if you disagree. 

5. Figure out what you want from the conversation

  • Do you want to revisit the conversation? Simply state your differing views? Before you have a conversation with a family member that has different views from you, decide on what you want to accomplish from the conversation. By having a goal to achieve, the conversation will amount to more than an argument and both sides might be able to understand each other. 


At the end of the day, it is important to realize that these conversations are important to facilitate change and although they are difficult, they must be had. Change starts on a person to person basis and it is important to educate and understand those closest to us. These conversations are not avoidable in this political environment and they should not be avoided. In order to move forward, to address systemic racism, and to address the political divide in this country we must have these difficult conversations.