family political conversations

It’s that time of year. Turkey, travel, …and family political conversations between people who may love each other but sure don’t share a similar world view.

You want to have a nice time, but you just can’t understand — how can they possibly think that??!

What’s a family to do?

Here are 15 tips to keep calm during family political conversations.

1. Stop. You don’t have to respond. Often what we say in response will drive the other further into their corner.

2. Breathe. Relax. Remember that nothing has changed; they always think this; it’s just “in your face” because you are together.

3. Be thankful that we live in a country where we can debate politics without real fear of official retribution. Lots of countries have it much worse. And yes we can be scared by current trends, but still, we are free to speak.

4.Speak kindly. Find your compassion. Remember that the things which unite us humans are far greater than those which divide.

5.Avoid the trap of separativeness and divisiveness.

6. Remember brain science: conservatives have more volume in the amygdala – responsible for fear and anger; liberals have more activity in the anterior consulate cortex— helps modulate responses by distinguishing between instinctual response and intention. We can’t really help how we’re wired.

7. Exercise your anterior cingulate cortex. Practice discerning between instinct (fight flight freeze) and intention (stay calm, be rational, be kind).

8. Keep an open mind. Grandpa or Junior might have some valid points here and there. Be on the lookout!

9. Take the stance of an anthropologist, and try to understand why the others believe what they do.

10. Remember the key to negotiation: validation precedes problem-solving. **** (“I think I understand; you want ____ and believe ____, did I get that right?”) More communication tips are here.

11. Turn the conversation to neutral ground: is there a sports team everyone can root for?

12. Take a trip down memory lane— think of some stories from your childhood to share.

13. Remember that the things that unite us are always greater than those that divide.

14. Keep in mind that the “liberal” ideas almost always win out in the end. And “conservatives” keep things from moving too quickly. Both sides have a role to play.

15. Have some food and give thanks. Remember, love trumps hate. Be love.

Written by 

Sarah is a licensed professional counselor in Pennsylvania. She works as a therapist and coach with people around the world, helping them create more peace within themselves and in their relationships. She is the proud mom of three sons. In her spare time, she's an avowed yogi and an avid runner.

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