Avoiding Awkwardness This Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving season gives us lots to look forward to: maybe Grandma’s famous pumpkin pie, your uncle yelling at the mediocre football players on TV, Mom saying “best one yet!” each year about the turkey, and the opportunity to sit and reflect on the year behind us and what we are grateful for.

Now, we all know 2020’s been one hell of a ride. If you have older parents or family members that are, ahem, less likely to agree with you on current issues, the conversations around the table can get a bit ~awkward~. It can feel difficult to empathize with people who you feel don’t empathize with the world. 

This can be stressful, but in order to maintain the peace this holiday season, here are some tips that may help you enjoy your time with your loved ones and avoid turmoil. 

1. Set boundaries. 

It can be easy to bring up hot topic words such as “election”, “Trump”, “protests”, etc., but depending on who you’re around this holiday, this can be a gateway to turmoil. Instead, consider laying down the law before you sit down with your loved ones. Consider sending them a “no politics” request over text, or shutting down the conversation before it takes wing. After all, some things are better left unsaid. If your space allows it, you may want to designate a “politics zone” that allows for a safe space to communicate opinions. Just keep it away from the food. 

2. Be productive in your conversation. 

If you do decide to open up the conversation to current events, try as hard as you can to be impeccable with your words; AKA, hold in your contempt. Using “I” statements can be really helpful because they avoid the opportunity for accusations and assumptions about the other side. For example, you might have more luck saying something like “I am worried about our democracy’s integrity because of A, B, and C,” rather than “Your side doesn’t care about democracy and it’s causing all these problems.” 

Some guests may attempt to bait you into an argument, but if you remain poised and calmly de-escalate the situation, you’ll be the bigger person and save everyone from some awkwardness. After all, hate really has no place at a family gathering. Considering asking a sibling, partner, or cousin to be your wingman for the day so you don’t have to go through it alone. If you feel heated, consider calmly walking away for a moment, or deflecting with light-hearted humor. 

3. Take time for you. 

There is no shame in escaping when you need to. A brief meditation, a walk around your old neighborhood with the family dog, or a FaceTime with a friend from school are all great ways to recharge when you feel your social battery start to die. Try not to abandon your family in a fit of rage (easier said than done TBH), and instead try to ground yourself and recognize that you could benefit from some space. 

4. Remember to be thankful! 

The whole point of Thanksgiving is to give yourself the opportunity to give thanks to the universe for its blessings and to your loved ones for existing and supporting you. You don’t have to kiss up to everyone, but a little gratitude can go a long way in dealing with difficult people. Call your friends and remind them that you love them. Make a list of twenty things you’re grateful for in 2020. Go outside and say thank you to the earth for supporting you all this time.

Dealing with family conflict is not easy during the holidays, especially pertaining to politics and social issues. It can feel really debilitating, but if you stay true to yourself, keep your head up, and recognize your limits, you can maximize this experience and enjoy it for what it is. Remember to take space for yourself and be thankful for the crazy, weird, tumultuous life you’ve lived this year. You got this!