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4 Tips for How to Talk Politics with Your Family over the Holidays

Illustration of a man and woman sitting down at a Thanksgiving dinner tableHeaded home for the holidays? You could be in for a little heat. If you’re a progressive who’s spending time with friends and family, there is a chance you might find yourself in the company of Trump supporters at some point.

We know it can be difficult to engage with friends and family members whom you may care deeply for, but who also hold wildly different — and sometimes racist, xenophobic, or misogynistic, viewpoints. You may choose to avoid the conversation altogether. Or, you may find yourself, year after year. in full-blown arguments.

We’ve been thinking about our own holiday plans and found three articles we thought were really helpful:

Here are four highlights for how to talk politics with your family over the holidays.

1. Avoiding the conversation may mean avoiding your responsibilities

“It’s our responsibility to go home and have the hard conversations with our family members, because, in many cases, only we have the power to reach them and begin the long work of rooting out bigotry in our communities.”

The stakes are simply too high to sacrifice conversation for comfort…If your family is white, or wealthy, or any other kind of privileged, you might not feel as compelled to interrupt your turkey and gravy to speak up. That’s exactly why you have to. The people who have the most to lose are already doing all they can to stop Trump. We must all act with the same urgency, especially if you or your family is privileged because when one of us is unsafe because of our skin color, or sexual orientation, or gender identity, all of our values are threatened.”

2. Model respectful communication (in how you listen and how you speak)

“Hearing them out is affirming to them as humans and we’re more willing to listen to someone who’s willing to listen to us.”

“Use humor, but don’t belittle. Be passionate, but not condescending. It can feel cathartic to mock, scream, or taunt people who seem dedicated to misinformation and offensiveness, but this approach is ineffective if your goal is social change. So unless you’re dealing with outright trolls, it’s worth the extra effort to model the kind of respectful discourse you want to see in the world.”

3. Make it personal (in both directions)

“If you can share a personal story or connection, take advantage:…personal stories are an important way to change people’s minds,”

“Instead of having a policy-oriented conversation, talk about the people in our lives we love and care about… This might mean telling them about your own experience as a woman, queer person or minority group. It might mean telling them about a friend you have who fits into one of the categories Trump has targeted… and explaining to them the way the election has affected them. Or just tell them a story about their lives, their families, what they do for a living.”

“If you want your friends and relatives to understand why you support Black Lives Matter or LGBTQ rights (and if you wish to persuade them to do so, too), you need to ask about their beliefs, really listen to their answers, and demonstrate that you care where they’re coming from. How do they feel these movements impact their own lives? What’s at the root of their opposition to freedom and dignity for people from different racial backgrounds, sexual orientations, or countries, and what would it take to change their minds? Once you’ve shown that you’re listening, ask questions that force them to step outside their experience.”

4. Know when to walk away

You don’t have to continue any conversation that is hurtful or that is giving a bigot more of a platform, but sometimes it can be hard to let go. Figure out your own boundaries and how you’ll hold them. You can even ask for help from other loved ones. A hand sign, code word, or subtle kick under the table can be a good reminder to take a breath and see if you want a conversation to continue, if it needs a reset, or if it’s time to pull the plug.