Let’s be honest. 2020 has been a very politically charged year, characterized by “unprecedented times” and the irreversible effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. So far, we’ve had the US elections, Black Lives Matter movements, Brexit, anti-lockdown protests, and plenty of other significant political moments. It’s forced all us to have serious conversations about the future and reflect on our political views with a greater sense of urgency.
On top of all that, the holiday season has finally arrived, and many of us will be going home to problematic aunts, old-school parents, and pessimistic cousins. So we’ve conjured up a list of guidelines to foster healthy political conversations with the people you care about. It’s a list for millennials, Gen Zs, and quite frankly anyone who might have vastly different views from their loved ones.
1. Don’t let your emotions get in the way
Plenty of Thanksgiving dinners have abruptly ended over emotional disputes at the table. As everyone in the family gets older, you’re likely to start having mature conversations about politics and current affairs. These topics are the breeding grounds for heightened emotions and passionate monologues about voting and the state of the economy.
If you feel like you’re on the brink of ruining family ties forever over a tense political debate, we recommend changing the topic or at least agreeing to disagree. It’s honorable to be loud and proud about your beliefs, but it might not be worth it to build tension during the festive season, a time for love, gratitude, and peace.
2. Do your research and stay informed
The best ammunition for a constructive political debate is coming through with the facts. You don’t have to become a walking encyclopedia, but you can gather some thought-provoking information to back up your claims. I understand that you might be busy with work projects, college finals, or trying to wrap your head around ludicrous 2020. Nevertheless, even the busiest people in the world make time for a quick news catch-up.
3. Social distance and wear your mask (even around family)
If you’re fortunate enough to be around family these holidays, you need to be extra careful. COVID-19 is no joke and the number of global cases is steadily on the rise. On November 24, more than 85,700 people were hospitalized in the US alone. For this reason, anti-mask family members will have to come to their senses before you can dive into any other political discussions. It’s counter-productive to yell at great-aunt Bertha for not wearing a mask, but the least you could do is ask her to wear one out of respect for you and your desire to stay safe. If all else fails, boost your social distancing radius from 6 feet to 12 feet ASAP! And if you have the means to leave, it’s something to consider.
4. Listen to what people have to say
It’s easy to get caught up in a heaty discussion and talk over someone who is trying to share their views, especially when utter nonsense is coming out of their mouth. The general rule-of-thumb is to patiently wait for them to make their point and ask to speak afterwards.
Remember that you’re talking to your loved ones, and there’s no need to act like Judge Judy. Rather, use these conversations as a learning opportunity. Try to understand where people are coming from and find common ground. You’ll be surprised at how much easier it is to hash things out when both parties are willing to listen.
5. Stand by your political views and engage with people who are willing to learn
If you truly believe in something, your loved ones should be willing to engage and learn. Don’t be afraid to stand by your political views and be proud of who you are, even if you’re one of the younger and more vulnerable members of your family. Sometimes it can be difficult when it feels like everyone is against you. However, you have to remember you’re part of something greater than yourself.
6. Take time out for self-reflection
Political conversations are much more valuable when you use them as a springboard for self-reflection. Think about what you’ve learned through political conversations with loved ones and how you can make a positive difference. Being aware of their opinions and perspectives can give you valuable insight into who they are and the kind of relationships you hope to have with them in the future. Self-reflection is key.
Above all else, happy holidays! I hope you can use this time to get closer to your family and learn more about their interesting perspectives. Although 2020 has been one of the most outlandish years in recorded history, it has given us the gift of political consciousness. I urge you to be kind, patient and accepting, regardless of your political stance.
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