After the extremely contentious 2016 election, a peaceful Thanksgiving dinner may prove more difficult than usual. Experts say the particularly divisive election could intensify typical family squabbling this holiday season, especially among relatives on separate sides of the political fence who may be seeing each other for the first time since Donald Trump’s stunning victory on November 9th.
So, how do you get through dinner without it devolving into a shouting match? I’ve compiled a few ideas for you to try. But, remember, if all else fails, there’s always hiding in the bathroom. I am kidding. Kind of…
1. Make the dinner table a no-politics zone.
Every American wants security, prosperity and liberty. Our political disagreements stem from different opinions of how to achieve these ends. As much as possible, remind your family of how you are similar before explaining the finer points of how you differ. For example, we all want secure borders. We all want to stop terrorism. We all want to preserve the environment for future generations. Establish these points of agreement at the outset, and you just might discover that those “unreasonable” family members aren’t so unreasonable after all. With this foundation, the same passion that might have become insults and personal attacks will be channeled into meaningful discussion.
3. Be ready to create a conversational diversion.
The best way to keep people from talking about politics is to get them talking about something else. What’s the best thing they’ve watched on TV or Netflix or in theaters this year? Inquire about their vacations, their jobs or their hobbies. Browse the news before dinner and come prepared with some interesting apolitical headlines to discuss. If the conversation starts to turn, be ready with what you’ll say next. Consider responding politely with, “You know, I’m not comfortable talking about that yet,” or, “We know we don’t agree on politics, so let’s not discuss it.”
4. Remember to STOP.
Get ready. This is an acronym that can change your life. When you start to feel annoyed or upset in any way, remember to employ this simple, yet rapid technique that will help take control of the one thing in your power: your response.
Take a breath
Observe the sensations in your body, your thoughts/emotions, your interaction with the other person
Proceed in a way that best supports you, the other person, and your relationship
In moments when we feel flustered, usually our first impulse is to act in a way we’ll come to regret. Austrian physician and concentration camp survivor Viktor Frankl once said: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Taking a moment to STOP helps us get into this gap between stimulus and response and claim the power to choose the most beneficial action.
In my family, we go around the table and everyone has to share one thing they are grateful for before we begin eating, and that sets the tone. Remember that Thanksgiving is a time for family. It’s a time to be thankful for those you’re with…and to focus on the things that unite us rather than divide us. No families agree on everything. But at the end of the day, you’re still family. If political conversations get out of hand, affirm to the table that your relationships are deeper than the 2016 election.
Cheers to a peaceful and enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday!