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How To Discuss Politics This Holiday Season Without Destroying All of Your Relationships

Everyone says that there are three things that you should never talk about at the dinner table: money, politics, and religion. All attempts are made to evade these topics during the holiday season in order to prevent conflict. However, with so many different family members in one room – and that one random uncle that everyone thinks was dropped as a child – it’s bound to happen.

Let’s face the facts, Americans today are so polarized that we can’t agree on anything. Let’s look at a current issue as an example: impeachment. Eighty-four percent of Democrats support impeachment, while only eleven percent of Republicans support it. Now, I’m not here to discuss that, but that’s just the stats on one issue. You can take any major topic like abortion, gun rights, or immigration, and it seems like there is no overlap in opinion between these two sides. This may be because of our lack of empathy to discuss issues and tendency to berate the opposing side. 

Although we can say we’re just following our President’s example when we tweet about issues, those 280 characters aren’t a conversation, they’re a comment. They close off any possibility of actually having a discussion. I’m all for digital forms of communication, however, when you can’t be as honest in person as you are on the internet, it shows that you just want to be able to state your opinion and are too afraid to have the hard discussions. 

Just as the tendency to troll others online closes off discussion, so does putting ourselves in social media echo chambers. Of course we’re going to gravitate towards people that have the same views as us, and it is good to discuss like views. However, it isn’t good to only feed oneself with content we agree with. We then essentially close ourselves off from an unbiased education on issues and from having a conversation with the other side. 

They may not be foolproof but here are a few suggestions for how to handle it when an unwanted political conversation arises at the dinner table: 

  1. It’s difficult to have discussions with people you disagree with, but just like you’d want someone to have empathy for your point of view, you need to do the same for others. 

  2. It’s definitely easy to get angry or passionate, but remember that even if you’re presenting facts, anger can overshadow the information. 

  3. Sometimes it’s easier to just ignore comments from others that are meant to provoke you, because smart-ass retorts are easy to come up with, but never a good defense. 

  4. If you do want to have a conversation, remember it’s a discussion, not a competition. So, you want to educate the other person, but it doesn’t have to end with the other person changing their point of view, and that’s okay. 

Lastly, I know that sometimes other people’s comments are hurtful and harmful, because certain political views are more than just views: they’re personal. But sometimes it’s best to remember that you have to stay safe and protect yourself. So, as easy as it is to get angry, the only way to change anyone’s mind is through conversations, even if they are difficult. So, the dinner table might not be the setting or give you enough time to have those conversations. However, for the future, try to be open to talking, not just commenting. 

Tania is a Fashion Business Management major at FIT and is currently a Sophomore. She loves art, reading and writing and honestly any excuse to talk about all three.
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