How to Survive Talking Politics with Your Family Over the Holidays

Tips for tables with Trump voters

Family sitting at a long table eating together

It’s now November, which means the holidays are fast approaching. As in you’d better start getting your holiday shopping lists together. As in you’d better starting figuring out who’s making what for Thanksgiving.

I have a small immediate family (shout out to all the only children in the house!) but a huge extended family with a bunch of cousins and aunts and uncles. Although we’re never sure whose house we’re going to for which holiday, there is one thing we can always count on: politics will most certainly be discussed at least a dozen times. And it won’t always be pretty.

My dad and uncle have way different political views than a lot of the rest of my family. And they aren’t afraid to voice their loud (and sometimes lousy) opinions about everything from Charlottesville to universal healthcare. For example, Yom Kippur dinner kicked off with my dad and I shouting at each other about NFL players taking a knee, followed by some truly alternative facts from him, and culminating in me running out of the room crying. That was followed by several sleepless nights playing back the conversation in my head, coming up with several retorts I wished I’d thought of in the moment.

I don’t want to go through that again as the holiday marathon approaches, so I’ve been racking my brain for some moves I can make when things start to get ugly. Because he is my dad, and my parents and I are close (see above, the only child thing), not seeing him or speaking to him anymore is off the table. So that leaves me with a few alternative solutions (different from alternative facts), which I thought might be helpful to those of you also facing down a long dark slog of holiday political conversations.

  • Keeping my opinions about me. It doesn’t help anyone to yell, “YOU PEOPLE ARE RUINING THE COUNTRY,” even though it might be true. It also doesn’t help to tell others when you think their feelings are “wrong,” which my dad said to me during the aforementioned Yom Kippur fight, and set off my waterworks. Opinions and feelings can’t be wrong. Facts can be wrong. Knowing the difference can do wonders.
  • Making sure I have facts to back up my arguments. The worst thing about the political climate right now is the political climate. But one good thing to come out of this garbage heap is that I’m now more politically aware and well-read than I have ever been before. That helps me put my money where my mouth is when it comes to these conversations. And that leads me to my next point, which is …
  • I’m not going to change anyone’s mind, I’m just trying to have a conversation. Once it’s understood that we’re just having a polite debate and we’re not going to sway anyone to “come to the other side,” it leaves it open to have an engaging conversation. And who knows, we might learn something in the meantime. But when in doubt, there’s always …
  • Not engaging at all. This could mean actively disengaging, like leaving the table for a little while. Or I could just sit there quietly and try not to throw up while gripping my wife’s leg under the table. Because I’m pretty sure that’s what passes for options, during the holidays of 2017.

What do you think? How do you deal with politics at the holiday dinner table? Do you have any survival tips for the rest of us? Sound off in the comments below.

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