In case you somehow missed it, this is a presidential election year. It is admittedly one of the most unusual races in history. We have a business man with no political experience in Donald Trump, we have the first woman topping a major political party's ticket in Hillary Clinton and we have Jill Stein and Gary Johnson heading third-party tickets. The 2016 presidential election has certainly inspired passion. Unfortunately that passion just might turn the family reunion into a family brawl. Is it possible to enjoy family gatherings when everybody's sure they're right? You can. Here's how.
Are You Listening?
Obviously, you care about your family and friends. You know their good points and bad points. Like you, they try to live their lives as best they can. Differences typically occur because each person views life differently. People form beliefs based on how they were raised, how they grew up and life experiences. Do you really think your relative is stupid, greedy or unfeeling because they vote the way they do? OK that could be the case, but it's probably not. Listen to their reasons before thinking about what you're going to say next. See if you can understand where they're coming from. Ask open-ended questions and repeat in your own words what you heard. You may find you're not so different after all.
But, I'm Right! I Know I Am!
Passion in politics is great, but your friends and relatives are most likely just as passionate even if it's on the opposite side of aisle. That doesn't mean they're wrong, it just means they're different. If you go into a political discussion thinking you're going to change minds, you'll be disappointed. If you go into it with the attitude that you're explaining what you believe and why, you may say something that helps the other person understand your point of view and think about it later. Don't focus on winning the debate. You could go home with a black eye.
Watch the Social Media Posts
There's nothing that puts a chill in the air faster than fighting with family over Facebook posts and then having to sit and eat with them at a family gathering just few days later. Avoid political arguments on social media, don't share graphics that seemingly support your point of view, if you do post something, check and make sure it's accurate before sharing. Facebook and other social media outlets make it easy to limit your posts to certain people, those who agree with you, and hide posts from others when you need to. Use those features, particularly during election season.
Stop the Talk
If you find yourself raising your voice, getting red in the face or otherwise getting emotional, stop the conversation. Take a break. Walk away. You're more likely to say something you'll regret if you let the heat of the moment take over. Your family relationships are worth more than that. Offer to get your "opponent" something to drink and when you come back, talk about something you both agree on.
The Best Way to Enjoy Family Gatherings? Don't Talk Politics at All
You probably already know the political leanings of the people in your family. If you're all on the same page, great. Talk politics all you want. More often than not, though, your family is a mixed bag just like the rest of the country. Mine certainly is. No way would I talk politics with Uncle Ralph, though I love him dearly. He won't change my mind and I can't change his. We do talk about how he took me to the lake when I was a kid and taught me to fish. Sometimes the best way to avoid a fight is to not talk about politics at all.
Have you found yourself in a family fight over politics? What did you do?