It’s that time of the year — where celebrating with the family can bring up a few topics that may ruffle a few feathers.
But it doesn’t have to! Because below we have a few tips that will help you navigate the murky waters of keeping your cool while discussing our current, murky, state of affairs.
First, once you have decided if this conversation will be productive and if you are feeling particularly ready to debate for the next few hours thanks to some strong cranberry-vodkas, here are some strong suggestions that may save your relationships.
DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY
All the experts say so! Because when we talk politics, it’s just that — politics. Your relationship to your family is separate. So making any below-the-belt comments like how your Cousin Eddy still lives in a trailer and can’t hold down a job not only creates riffs but also, has nothing to with why the heartbeat bill just passed. What you should do is come with information, stats and facts to help educate and gently correct the misguided or misinformed.
IT’S NOT ONE-SIDED, PAL
As crazy as it sounds, keep an open mind. Because this is not a one-sided conversation. Maybe there is something you can learn from a discussion from relatives who live in a different town than you that have policies that are not being addressed. And even if their claims are kind of crazy, a psychotherapist in Arizona, Dr. Kathy McCoy, says.
“A difficult discussion may help you to clarify your own thoughts, realizing how these may differ from the opinions of your family.”
Conversations like that may help you actually understand how you feel but it also will help you understand how to view family members.
“It may establish you as a separate, thinking individual in the eyes of your family, though they may shake their heads at your thoughts,” she continues.
This is a big potential benefit to having a real conversation, too. Sleeping in your childhood Little Mermaid sheets has a way of prompting many of us to regress around our families, and an honest, adult conversation can help parents and young adults cultivate a more mature, peer relationship.
Having non-transactional conversations can produce huge benefits like cultivating more mature relationships. And while it is easy to shy away from this because these people probably changed your diapers, like the sage William S. Burroughs once said, “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.”
LOCATE THE EXIT SIGNS
Be aware of any signs that your productive conversation is beginning to look like a fight.
“Tell-tale signs of a conversation going south are the classic nonverbal warning signs of arms folded, darting eyes, or grimaced face,” says clinical director of England Counseling Services in Magna, Utah,
Michael Boman, LCSW.
“Voice volume and intonation are also huge in this arena. Raised volume and shaking voice are indicators of a potentially bad situation,” he continues. “If you detect these, taking a break and revisiting later (if safe) is highly recommended.”
It would also be helpful to rehearse ways you can exit gracefully that do not place blame like the classic “Oh, look at the time! We have to get going because we are going to be late.” Or “I think we have gotten into some rough territory and it’s time to drink!” because it is important to read the room and know when to lay off and carry on.
And if a conversation becomes hurtful, get out and get help.
“If someone from your partner’s family makes off-color remarks or is very aggressive in a combative way with you, this is one where you can loop your partner in and let him or her know what’s going on,” says Masini. “Be firm, be swift, and make a speedy exit. This is family and you’re going to see them again (and again and again and again).”
And there you have it folks, happy talking!
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