Let's be honest: Holiday gatherings can sometimes be more stressful than fun. And that's if your family gets along. But a recent survey shows there's something you should worry about beyond whether your mother will pass the gravy to the sister she hasn't spoken to in years, and that's political talk.
Propeller Insights polled 1,000 U.S. adults and found that 49 percent of millennials believe Thanksgiving is the tensest social event of the year, while 54 percent rank Hanukah and Christmas as the gatherings most-likely to cause serious stress. But no matter what holiday millennials think will be the worst, they all had one thing in common: They've got the potential to be bad, millennials said, because of political differences.
Why do political differences divide us? "Political discussions are the gateway talks for more sensitive issues like money, abortion and lifestyle values," explains April Masini, relationship and etiquette expert. "It's not that politics are all that sensitive, but it's the underlying conversations that hit home. The way policies and politicians control and govern our lives hits our pocketbooks, our military, our safety and our education. And these are all areas where people tend to agree, and disagree."
When people disagree, "they tend to either politely do so, back off and change the subject, or come out swinging and not let go," Masini says. "The latter is what creates family fights at holidays." And to avoid that outcome, it can be best to avoid the discussion all together. Here's how.
1. Prepare other topics of conversation.
Long before you sit down at the dinner table, have a list of things you'd actually like to talk about prepared in your head, plus tactics to diffuse any conversation that could divide your family. "Preparation and discussion prior to a family event can be a great solution to avoiding fighting," says Masini. Seek other's advice, too. "You can discuss these issues with a partner, your family, or friends," she says.
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2. Bring a plus-one (or two).
"If your family has better manners with company than it does without, [ask if you can] bring friends," Masini suggests. "Some people behave better when they're with new people than because old patterns that they tend to fall into are broken and avoided." Plus, welcoming friends who don't have their own celebrations to attend into your family gathering is always a good move, regardless of politics.
3. Be clear and move on.
When your uncle brings up the election results, say, "Listen, we're here to celebrate, give thanks, and be together with family," suggests Jane Greer, Ph.D., relationship expert and author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship. Then, she says, add, "let's put the politics on the shelf for this occasion. We all have varying and differing points of view. We want to enjoy the day and not end up in potential conflict with each other."
4. Be persistent.
Of course, you can't always convince a stubborn relative to move on. So if your uncle persists in bashing Hillary Clinton, "say you respect his opinion but would rather discuss this topic at a different time," Greer suggests. "Acknowledge his strong feelings, but explain you're not comfortable discussing politics in this setting."