Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on what we have and enjoy family, friends, food and for some of us, football. But for many of us, it can also be a time to plot ways to hide from that loved-one with whom we just don’t see eye-to-eye. We all know this person; they’ve already popped into your mind. We’ll anticipate their arrival, dread the inevitable conversation, and end up disappointed in the outcome of the debate.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. The point of our constitutionally-protected free speech rights is that we’re able to host civil conversations, even with differing opinions. We don’t have to agree to discuss the important issues; our society is built on stating our disagreement! So take a deep breath, pull up a chair next to your crazy uncle, and use these tips for having discussions with people who disagree with you.
Tip #1: Just talk. This is an easy one. You can have conversations that don’t include the issues you disagree on. Try questions like “how is work going?” or “crazy football season, huh?”
Tip #2: If the conversation veers into controversial territory, listen, and don’t be offended. You expect to be listened to when you speak, right? So offer the same courtesy. Try to hear what the other person is saying, and understand why they say it. That will set you up for tip #3.
Tip #3: Respond (peacefully, of course). Dialogue and exchanging ideas are a good thing, and there’s no need to be afraid to put your own thoughts out there. Now that you know the other person’s point of view, you can respond and even debate with your own. Respectfully.
Tip #4: Agree to Disagree. You may not win them over to your side. Your Aunt Cathy may just not be as woke as you are. Know when to let a topic go and agree that you just aren’t going to see this issue the same way.
Tip #5: Pivot. When all other methods fail, change the subject. “Wow, those mashed potatoes were good,” or “Look, football is on” or even “Please ask me why I’m not married yet.”
Thanksgiving should be a happy occasion in which we’re thankful for all that we have, including the freedom to speak our minds and, yes, even the family that drives us crazy. This holiday, instead of dreading about how you’re going to make it through dinner, use these tips for good discussion with people you love.