With the holiday season in full swing and given the present political climate, heated conversations may come up at family gatherings.
Here are a few suggestions I outlined on Good Day Dallas to navigate tough conversations and stay cool when opinions clash.
The best approach is to avert the issue upfront. Request ahead of time that a strict “no talking politics” rule be enforced. My family recently got together for an early Thanksgiving celebration and we all agreed that it would be best to avoid any political discussions.
This can be easier said than done. Some people may choose to stir the pot anyway.
The first step is to try and pivot off of the topic, by changing the subject. If this is not successful, here are a few tactics to help keep the peace:
1. Listen actively and mindfully.
If things get heated, stop, take a breath, and ask more questions to clarify their position before answering. Ensure your body language reflects a collaborative tone as well. Uncross your arms, maintain eye contact and remain calm.
You don’t have to agree with a person to empathize with them — but you do need to listen, come to understand and respect their viewpoint, even if it is vastly different from your own. Say things like, “I can understand why you feel that way…” or “I’m so sorry this has affected you this way…”
The goal is to come together and say what needs to be said so that the other person feels valued and respected and, therefore, can actually hear your message.
3. Defer the Conversation
Remind your guests, calmly and respectfully, that the holidays are not the time and place for this type of conversation. It is meant to be a time of reconnecting and renewal. If it’s getting heated and emotionally charged, try saying something like, “I’m going to ask that we defer this conversation, we’re here to spend time together and enjoy each other’s company…”
4. Take the Higher Ground
A conflict cannot survive without your participation. No one ever changes their minds, or comes to understand another by being interrupted, insulted or belittled. The secret is to keep your composure and say things like “I respectfully disagree” – and continue to divert the conversation to another ‘safe’ topic.