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Six Thanksgiving Tips – Navigating Relationships With People You Love, Whose Ideas You Hate
The Thanksgiving dinner is probably a little smaller this year, but may include a family member or two whose political views are totally opposite of yours or downright offensive.
What can you do to manage your own feelings and anxieties and navigate tense, difficult conversations?
Afton Kapuscinski is director of the Psychological Services Center at Syracuse University and an assistant teaching professor of psychology. She provides six helpful steps to navigate difficult political conversations with polarized family members.
Dr. Kapuscinski says:
“Tension arising from increasing polarization in American politics can, unfortunately, extend to disagreements and rifts within families at a time when we need each other the most. Our clinical experience suggests that these conflicts create stress that lowers well-being and puts vulnerable individuals at risk for worsening mental health.”
If these challenges are weighing on you, consider the following suggestions for navigating relationships with people you love, whose ideas you may hate:
- We can easily fall into black-and white-thinking about politics in which people who disagree with us are “bad” and those who agree with us are “good”. When politics are salient, we may get tunnel vision on our loved one’s political beliefs and lose sight of the whole person. Remembering to view your loved ones as multidimensional people with various identities can help provide reminders of what you love about them.
- Develop realistic expectations for political conversations. Groups who disagree on an issue tend to become more polarized with discussion – which your own observations of political discussions on social media likely confirm. Work toward accepting that wholesale change is an unlikely outcome.
- As difficult as it may be, your conversation is likely to be more productive if you approach it with curiosity and a genuine attempt to understand the other person’s perspective. Anger, accusations and assumptions are likely to make your loved one defensive and less likely to be interested in your viewpoint as well.
- Remember if family members withdraw from you or become angry, it means there is a rupture in the relationship and consider taking a different approach or choosing not to continue the conversation.
- For better or worse, people bond over common enemies, so if you can find ways to commiserate, you may find it easier to discuss areas of disagreement.
- Finally, if there is a clear pattern of political conversations causing unpleasant visits with family, consider broaching the idea of not discussing those issues in the future
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