PDA

View Full Version : Holiday Conversations in a Polarized World



Jovialis
23-11-17, 20:00
In today’s highly polarized political climate, even time spent with family and friends can quickly turn contentious. There we are, innocently gathering around the Thanksgiving dinner table, when -- BAM! -- an issue comes up that threatens to ruin not just the meal but our closest relationships.

Shortly after the 2016 election, we heard from many people who were avoiding communicating with their loved ones out of fear of where the conversations might lead. It wasn’t just people ‘unfriending’ virtual acquaintances but, rather, family members or dear friends who quit speaking to one another about the topics that mattered most to them.

We understand the dilemma. Why wade into a conversation that may risk upsetting and damaging the relationship, perhaps irrevocably? But avoiding conversations with those we love eventually creates the very upset and damage we feared.

Too many people approach these difficult conversations with the following trade-off in mind: Either I stay quiet about the issue and keep the peace in my relationship/family, or I charge forward with the issue even if the relationship becomes collateral damage. Neither of these options is appealing. Worse, neither works.

Staying quiet and keeping the peace fails in at least two ways. Let’s say you decide that maintaining your relationship with [Judy, Uncle Tim, Grandma Sue, insert your loved one here] is more important than championing the issues that are important to you. You keep your mouth shut whenever the conversation turns to [race, climate change, politics, insert your issue of choice here]. How close does this really make you feel with the person? Do you really know them? Do they really know you?

Moreover, psychologists tell us that relatedness is a necessary ingredient for changing hearts and minds. The person both advocating for your cause and related to your Uncle Tim is you. If you don’t talk to them, you’ll be left criticizing their congressman or CEO from your armchair, and that won’t have any effect.

Going in hot also fails. When we charge into conversations, too often we get distracted by the temptations to be right, righteous and certain. As soon as it becomes apparent that we’re valuing being right more than our relationship with Uncle Tim, the conversation will go off the rails fast.

Profound breakthroughs occur when people abandon choosing between the relationship and their cause. Instead, they choose to explore the possibility of standing for both.

Where might the conversation go if you said something like, “Our relationship is really important to me and I want to be able to talk to you about the things I care about. In the past, I was afraid, and decided that it wasn’t possible. I’ve been hiding what matters to me from you, and I don’t want to do that any more. Going forward, I’d like to look for ways for us both to explore things that are meaningful and in a way that contributes toward, rather than diminishes, our time together. Would you help me?”

Consider this (abbreviated) story from Charlotte, an undergraduate student who tried a new approach with her grandmother, using the exercises available in our book, Breaking Through Gridlock - The Power of Conversation in a Polarized World.

“Looking back on the conversation, I am surprised by how much I was able to keep my emotions in check. Usually when I argue with my grandmother, I take her opposition to my viewpoints much more personally. I often feel that our differences prevent us from having as deep of a relationship as we otherwise might. But this conversation was different...it was a much more open discourse. Though I failed at changing her mind... I think that our ability to discuss these issues more openly and conversationally was a big step for us.

In addition, when I asked my grandmother how she would feel if I were to pursue a career fighting for environmental causes, she surprised me with her answer. She told me that as long as the organization had integrity, she would support me in my work. In light of her extremely strong opinions, I was so glad to hear that she could look past our disagreement on the issues and still wish me well in my pursuit of environmental causes. This showed me that my grandmother loves me enough to respect my values, whether or not they align with her own, and that’s a wonderful thing to hear.”

We can all continue to pretend that “the other side” is somehow totally disconnected and we don’t know how to reach them. Meanwhile, we can collectively ignore that everyone on “the other side” has a cousin, a spouse, a best friend with different views, experiences, and beliefs. We can further ignore that for someone, we are that cousin, spouse, or best friend. We can continue to avoid the difficult work of figuring out how to talk to one another.

Or, we can stand for something different.

Will these conversations be easy? Heck no.

It will take many failures to find an effective way of communicating our message among people who think differently. Often, friends and family who love us are more likely to graciously allow us to fail and try again. When we practice sharing what matters most, we begin to create relationships where we share our whole self and where others do the same. Our humanity becomes present. Love is present.

Who do you love so much that you won’t talk to them about the issues that you care about the the most? Is that love?

Have you used the issues you care about to avoid speaking to someone you love? Is that love?

What might it look like if you stood for both the issues you care about and the relationship?

What actions will you take today toward creating a healthy relationship where you can both share conversations about what really matters?

Our posts on winning hearts and minds and how to wield the power of vulnerability provide additional guidance around having effective conversations about topics important to you.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/breaking-gridlock/201711/holiday-conversations-in-polarized-world

I'm right of center, and fairly socially conservative on many issues. Nevertheless, if someone makes a valid point about an issue I initially disagree with, they may influence my opinion towards theirs. I consider myself an open-minded person that responds to reason. Thankfully, the family members I will be having dinner with today (my dad's side), are pretty apolitical; aloft to current events; and share many of the same attitudes I do. On my mother's side however, I have an uncle that sounds like a stereotypical post-modern liberal; ready to rip your head off if you disagree with him. Growing up, I remember he was not necessarily like this, and was one of my favorite uncles. But I feel as though he's become so influenced by rhetoric; it's impossible to have a conversation with him. Nevertheless, I know he's a good person on the inside, but he's extremely intolerant of dissenting views. Not only just on holidays, he makes attempts to always talk about politics, and it eventually becomes shouting matches with him, and my other family members. With him, I always try to divert the conversation to something else. FYI, he's actually a very accomplished, intelligent and wealthy man; not some deadbeat complainer.

When I was younger, I never thought stuff like politics would get in the way of family.

Angela
23-11-17, 20:42
I'm right of center, and fairly socially conservative on many issues. Nevertheless, if someone makes a valid point about an issue I initially disagree with, they may influence my opinion towards theirs. I consider myself an open-minded person that responds to reason. Thankfully, the family members I will be having dinner with today (my dad's side), are pretty apolitical; aloft to current events; and share many of the same attitudes I do. On my mother's side however, I have an uncle that sounds like a stereotypical post-modern liberal; ready to rip your head off if you disagree with him. Growing up, I remember he was not necessarily like this, and was one of my favorite uncles. But I feel as though he's become so influenced by rhetoric; it's impossible to have a conversation with him. Nevertheless, I know he's a good person on the inside, but he's extremely intolerant of dissenting views. Not only just on holidays, he makes attempts to always talk about politics, and it eventually becomes shouting matches with him, and my other family members. With him, I always try to divert the conversation to something else. FYI, he's actually a very accomplished, intelligent and wealthy man; not some deadbeat complainer.

When I was younger, I never thought stuff like politics would get in the way of family.

My family was split in Italy and is split here, from very conservative Republicans to someone who was part of the "Wall Street" protests. Everyone knows exactly where everyone else stands, and they're not really open to changing their minds on much of anything, so there's no point in debating it. I generally try to steer the conversation to other topics when I'm with them. It doesn't affect how I feel about any of them, btw.

My husband's family is also split. They, however, "relish the fight" one could say, so once the meal was over, which always took hours, and the nuts and fruit and pies and chesnuts and espresso were on the table it was round one! :)

We're eating with my friend's family today, and our attitudes are almost identical, so no fireworks.

I think you have to know the people involved. If you've all always been very open with one another there's no reason to rehash it at the holiday table, imo, but then I don't like fireworks when I love all the people. Strangers are a different story.

davef
23-11-17, 20:54
Political debates at any table are no different from ethnic origin debates often seen on anthro forums in terms of using ridiculous, emotionally driven arguments.

Jovialis
24-11-17, 04:03
My family was split in Italy and is split here, from very conservative Republicans to someone who was part of the "Wall Street" protests. Everyone knows exactly where everyone else stands, and they're not really open to changing their minds on much of anything, so there's no point in debating it. I generally try to steer the conversation to other topics when I'm with them. It doesn't affect how I feel about any of them, btw.
My husband's family is also split. They, however, "relish the fight" one could say, so once the meal was over, which always took hours, and the nuts and fruit and pies and chesnuts and espresso were on the table it was round one! :)
We're eating with my friend's family today, and our attitudes are almost identical, so no fireworks.
I think you have to know the people involved. If you've all always been very open with one another there's no reason to rehash it at the holiday table, imo, but then I don't like fireworks when I love all the people. Strangers are a different story.

I had a very nice time today. No lame political debates, but I didn't expect any of it anyway. We ate a ton of food; my aunt is probably the best cook in my family. most of the time when they converse with each other, they transition in and out of English and Italian sometimes in mid-sentence. We all watched "Out of the Furnace", with Christian Bale and Woody Harrelson; good movie. Their commentary is always really hilarious.

Angela
24-11-17, 05:22
I had a very nice time today. No lame political debates, but I didn't expect any of it anyway. We ate a ton of food; my aunt is probably the best cook in my family. most of the time when they converse with each other, they transition in and out of English and Italian sometimes in mid-sentence. We all watched "Out of the Furnace", with Christian Bale and Woody Harrelson; good movie. Their commentary is always really hilarious.

I'm glad. My only complaint is that I'm in a food coma. :)

Tomorrow I start decorating, and so the Christmas marathon begins, although I'm simplifying more every year, and I'm getting more help every year, thank God. I'm still going to have to up the caffeine in the mornings. :)

davef
24-11-17, 15:53
I had a very nice time today. No lame political debates, but I didn't expect any of it anyway. We ate a ton of food; my aunt is probably the best cook in my family. most of the time when they converse with each other, they transition in and out of English and Italian sometimes in mid-sentence. We all watched "Out of the Furnace", with Christian Bale and Woody Harrelson; good movie. Their commentary is always really hilarious.

cool, did you eat turkey? was it good? stuffing 2? stuffing is delicious, I love it with lots of gravy

AdeoF
24-11-17, 16:21
I'm glad. My only complaint is that I'm in a food coma. :)

Tomorrow I start decorating, and so the Christmas marathon begins, although I'm simplifying more every year, and I'm getting more help every year, thank God. I'm still going to have to up the caffeine in the mornings. :)
Haha your a early Christmas person. In London they start the Christmas stuff in early November and it's crazy. I was in central London earlier the week and the Christmas lights are on. Is it the same in New York??

AdeoF
24-11-17, 16:23
cool, did you eat turkey? was it good? stuffing 2? stuffing is delicious, I love it with lots of gravy
For me turkey is only on Christmas day and I do love the same thing as you :)

davef
24-11-17, 16:31
For me turkey is only on Christmas day and I do love the same thing as you :)
Same here, though it can be kinda dry in certain areas

Angela
24-11-17, 17:07
Haha your a early Christmas person. In London they start the Christmas stuff in early November and it's crazy. I was in central London earlier the week and the Christmas lights are on. Is it the same in New York??

The stores and everything are already decorated. A lot of people will probably do their lights this week-end. It can snow in December and you don't want to be out there on your ladder in the middle of the snow. It's beautiful just to drive home at night. I do love them.

I also personally have to decorate early, and do the shopping, and the baking, because the entire week before Christmas is dedicated to food shopping and cooking. This is when all the holiday parties are going on too, although I've cut way back on those. It's all just too much, which makes January such a depressing month.

As to stuffing...it is the best part. I have to make some today to go with the leftover turkey we brought home.

I'd always sort of assumed that most of the Thanksgiving "meal", minus things like sweet potatoes with marshmallows, or butternut squash soup, and cranberry sauce, came to America from the British Isles, but maybe not? This video shows Irish people really flabbergasted by a lot of it. I have to say, that's some of the sorriest turkey and stuffing and pecan pie I've ever seen, so they'd be overwhelmed by the real thing. :) In one of the comments someone asked why they gave them prison Thanksgiving food! :) My hosts are old school as to stuffing: no cornbread, no sausage, apples, pecans, or whatever other thing people throw in nowadays, just the classic, and it's very good despite the fact there are so few ingredients.

Here's the video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUyqH-BE9lk

AdeoF
27-11-17, 01:44
Same here, though it can be kinda dry in certain areas

I know right, I only had turkey on 1 Christmas day and it didn't work sadly. I eat lamb on Christmas day and it works better, because it's not as dry. (oh yes it needs gravy to work)

AdeoF
27-11-17, 01:55
The stores and everything are already decorated. A lot of people will probably do their lights this week-end. It can snow in December and you don't want to be out there on your ladder in the middle of the snow. It's beautiful just to drive home at night. I do love them.

I also personally have to decorate early, and do the shopping, and the baking, because the entire week before Christmas is dedicated to food shopping and cooking. This is when all the holiday parties are going on too, although I've cut way back on those. It's all just too much, which makes January such a depressing month.

As to stuffing...it is the best part. I have to make some today to go with the leftover turkey we brought home.

I'd always sort of assumed that most of the Thanksgiving "meal", minus things like sweet potatoes with marshmallows, or butternut squash soup, and cranberry sauce, came to America from the British Isles, but maybe not? This video shows Irish people really flabbergasted by a lot of it. I have to say, that's some of the sorriest turkey and stuffing and pecan pie I've ever seen, so they'd be overwhelmed by the real thing. :) In one of the comments someone asked why they gave them prison Thanksgiving food! :) My hosts are old school as to stuffing: no cornbread, no sausage, apples, pecans, or whatever other thing people throw in nowadays, just the classic, and it's very good despite the fact there are so few ingredients.


Thanksgiving is great if you love turkey with cranberry sauce. They did it at my university and I think the cranberry it's too sweet for a turkey but the Americans love so what can I say. The stuffing now that's great. Pecan pie works really well as dessert and it was yummy. If i go to America one day im trying Thanksgiving out and November is off peak too.

Yep even my mum got me a Christmas present last week and I don't blame her due to the crazy stuff that happens in December I can say. Since im a adult christmas is not a big thing anymore but it's still positive for everyone!!

davef
27-11-17, 08:46
I know right, I only had turkey on 1 Christmas day and it didn't work sadly. I eat lamb on Christmas day and it works better, because it's not as dry. (oh yes it needs gravy to work)

I agree, gravy makes it easier. As celebrated as it is, turkey is a chore to eat bc without gravy it's like eating a shoelace. The best poultry is duck, hands down. If I have to explain why, you've never had it :).

But the best part of any bird is the SKIN! It's the elastic texture and fat underneath that I enjoy so much and in fact, I'll be happy to eat the entire skin layer of any bird or other animal bc I really enjoy it's elasticity and tenderness, especially when it includes layers of fat. I would be happy with a plate of duck skin with a side of wild rice, stuffing, gravy, and a tall icy bottle of beer to chase it all down!

I'll enjoy eating the skin of any animal-chickens, pigs, even snakes.

Angela
27-11-17, 19:29
Thanksgiving is great if you love turkey with cranberry sauce. They did it at my university and I think the cranberry it's too sweet for a turkey but the Americans love so what can I say. The stuffing now that's great. Pecan pie works really well as dessert and it was yummy. If i go to America one day im trying Thanksgiving out and November is off peak too.

Yep even my mum got me a Christmas present last week and I don't blame her due to the crazy stuff that happens in December I can say. Since im a adult christmas is not a big thing anymore but it's still positive for everyone!!

I'm still not a turkey lover even after all my years living here. There's a lot of skill involved in cooking it so that it's moist but not raw. The only really enjoyable part to me is the dark meat. However, it's the sides that I really like on Thanksgiving: stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn, etc. I like things like baked acorn squash too, and I love roasted sweet potatoes,both of which I actually make often, but why anyone would think sweet potatoes need to be mixed with a ton of sugar and cream and then topped with marshmallows is beyond me. I'm also with you about cranberry sauce. It's too sweet to be eaten with meat for my palate.

However, in defense of turkey, it makes good sandwiches if sliced very thin and with the addition of a lot of mayonnaise and preferably lettuce and tomato. Some added bacon, making it a turkey BLT, is also great. A lot of mayo is an absolute must, which sort of defeats the purpose of eating a low fat meat. My trick sometimes is to put some pesto on the bread instead of mayo. At least the added fat is a healthy fat.

The carcass of the bird, some left over bits and pieces, and some vegetables also make a nice soup.

Well, next up is Christmas. If I'm having a big group over, in addition to the traditional Italian meal I make a big Virginia ham. Now, that's good. I probably won't though. Christmas Eve is enough work for a week.

Oh, for Europeans, the classic turkey club sandwich:
https://assets.epicurious.com/photos/56054fc66a59cdb91b5f0291/2:1/w_1260%2Ch_630/EP_09232015_turkeyclub.jpg