Holidays can be stressful even under the best of circumstances. Getting together with family and friends during these politically divided times can feel like we are walking in a minefield. I’ve written a full blog on this topic here at Psychology Today under Tech Happy Life. Here’s my abbreviated version.
Remember the Purpose
The purpose of getting together during the holidays is one of celebration and bonding. Arguing over politics doesn’t fit within this goal. There is a time and place for everything, and holiday celebrations are neither the time nor place for butting heads over political issues.
We Are Not Going to Change Others’ Views
When was the last time you changed someone’s deeply held belief through a heated argument? On the flipside, when have you changed your mind because someone argued you into submission? Right – neither of those things happens. Changing people’s opinions (or our own!) is difficult to do, and it is not going to happen through clashes during holiday gatherings. We must accept that, if our purpose is to change people’s opinions, arguing during the holidays is not the way to do it. Plus, we are going to make others uncomfortable or upset through forcing our political views onto others. There is collateral damage from political feuds!
Find Common Ground
In the Dalai Lama’s The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living, the Dalai Lama presents a powerful strategy for connecting with others. Instead of focusing on how others are different from us, we should look at how we are the same. All of us want to be happy and wish to avoid suffering. That’s the starting point. Instead of focusing on how others are “others,” we should instead look at how this person in front of us, let’s say Uncle Joe, is just like us. He wants to be happy, and he doesn’t want to suffer. He shares all the same emotions that we experience. Like us, he believes he is “right” in his political views. Like us, Uncle Joe is trying to do the best he can. Like us, Uncle Joe probably wants to enjoy the holiday get together too. Let’s cut Uncle Joe some slack and not call him out for his “idiotic” political beliefs. Hey, Uncle Joe thinks WE are the idiotic. So, we are the same in that we both think the other is an idiot!
Have an Exit Strategy
Despite our best efforts, we might get pulled into political debates. Have an exit strategy prepared. We should be ready to disengage. We might try saying something like:
- We’ll just have to agree to disagree.
- Let’s not get into this over the holidays. We all want to have a good time.
- Is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV? I haven’t seen that in ages!
- Anyone up for a walk? The weather looks great!
- Squirrel! 🙂
The holidays are a time for celebration and bonding. During these politically divided times, they can be particularly stressful. However, we are all in for trouble if we can’t sit down and break bread with those who see things differently than us. We are all in this together. Plus, when we really take a step back, we are more alike than different from others anyway.