Here it is, the first Christmas season post the craziest presidential election in recent history, and you have to go over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house to face Uncle Bob or your sister’s neighbor. You know, the ones whose Facebook posts have informed you that they voted in a way you simply can’t understand.
If this doesn’t bother you or you can enter and exit these table discussions with ease … great! Move on to Amazon and do your Christmas shopping right now without leaving your house. However, if you’re worried you might explode as the conversation moves toward a certain topic, policy or candidate, here are a few things to consider to keep your holiday table conversation off the top 2016 presidential debate list:
Know what you are willing to discuss ahead of time. Set boundaries for yourself before you enter the situation. This will be the best safeguard to avoid saying things you’ll later regret. Consider questions like: What is my motive for entering these conversations? What triggers high emotion in me? What do I want the relationship to feel like at the end of the evening or weekend? What topics will help move me there?
Have an ally in the room. Not a political one necessarily, but a personal one. Maybe it’s your husband, your best friend or your mom. Someone who knows you and the limits you’ve set for yourself in this discussion arena. A person who can clue in when you’ve started to get dangerously close to the edge of plunging into full debate. Determine a way for this ally to clue you in when your emotions are getting the better of you. A word. A phrase. A look that lets you know it’s time to step back from that ledge.
Less is almost always more. Avoid tense political conversations, especially if this is someone you rarely see. Why get into a monumental argument while the figgy pudding is being served? When it’s possible, let it go. And when it’s impossible to step over a comment, saying, “I don’t see it that way,” is sufficient. There is no mandate for you to explain why you disagree; you are allowed that freedom.
Enter the conversation believing the best in someone. This is especially difficult when we share a history with people. But the more we are able to believe the good motives of another person, the easier it is to accept differences of opinion. If someone is trying to provoke a disagreement, don’t take the bait. If you are focusing on the reasons you love or at least appreciate the other person, this will prove to be much easier to do.
This has been a rough political year for everyone, where name-calling and heightened emotions have been the hallmarks of candidates and the voting public. Let this be a time of peacemaking because nothing conveys the Christmas spirit better than a truce. We will all be the better for it.
As a mom to four girls, Alexandra Kuykendall’s days are spent washing dishes, driving to and from different schools and trying to find a better solution to the laundry dilemma. She is the author of Loving My Actual Life, An Experiment In Relishing What’s Right In Front of Me and The Artist’s Daughter, A Memoir. A city girl at heart, she makes her home in the shadow of downtown Denver. You can read more of Alex’s everyday thoughts and connect with her at AlexandraKuykendall.com.