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I have always had a tight knit family. We have usually been pretty open about how we feel about sports, politics, religion, etc. You name it, we were able to have a reasonable conversation about it. I think I’m pretty tolerant and understanding of most political points of view, however I’m really dreading an upcoming family reunion. Although my immediate family is fairly aligned politically, my larger family is quite diverse in opinion. With the election approaching, I just want to spend time together and enjoy each other’s company. How do I refocus the attention to family if political arguments arise?
Dear Politically Divided,
My mom used to tell me that when presented with the most difficult situations, it is best to think of how to extend love. I know, it’s hard, especially when reacting is so much easier. But, finding a ground of love and trying to make peace should be your mission on this occasion.
With the election around the corner, political conversation may be hard to avoid. You may have been able to steer clear of it at work, however with family, somehow normal filters seem to disappear making more room for combativeness and vulnerability. I suggest trying to detour the conversation. If you hear your Uncle John making a snarky comment about his opposing candidate, ask Uncle John to show you pictures from his recent Alaskan fishing trip. If you see your sassy cousin Sara getting into a heated conversation with Grandma Marge about gun laws, I think it’s time to rally the troops for a family volleyball game.
Finding a ground of love and trying to make peace should be your mission on this occasion.
You can try to play mediator, but don’t let it overtake your vacation. We should talk about politics with the people who we love. But, it’s also about finding the right time and place. Some opinions will not budge and some subjects are simply not worth arguing over. Come into this reunion with the goal to bring peace and love and hopefully you will put a damper on disputes.
Dear Politically Divided,
The age-old question of family and politics will always be a tricky one. For many people, politics is a core part of their identity. Their party affiliation doesn’t just represent their views of economic policy or social views, but represents who they are. Part of this is human nature.
Our brain has a tendency to define the world in terms of tribes, and what bigger tribes do we have than our two party political system? Many a relationship has been lost because of political differences.
I would encourage you to try to find a similarity you have with someone else, even small ones can help.
From what I hear in your question, it sounds like the bigger priority for you isn’t setting the record straight on foreign policy but maintaining relationships within the family. If that’s the case then I think you’re right to make your best efforts to squelch any political debate and to change the conversation if you can.
Usually pictures of your children or your pets can do the trick, always keep them handy. In the event that a debate is unavoidable, I would encourage you to try to find a similarity you have with someone else, even small ones can help. And if you’re struggling with that, just remember that you’re all on the same team, family.