How to engage in difficult conversations during the holidays


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Photo of a turkey float from the Chicago Thanksgiving day Parade

Ava Trandel, Managing Editor of Features

It’s that time of year where the days are shortening, the temperature is dropping, and the most spirited holiday enthusiasts have already started listening to Christmas music. Whether the holiday season excites or stresses you out, it’s approaching and inevitable. 

While each family has their own holiday traditions, most include visiting with extended family, or at a minimum spending more quality time with immediate family. With these visits can come creating fond memories with loved ones and reconnecting with the cousins you only see a few times a year. But it can also come with tension and clashing opinions over politics or even morals, and the election season definitely won’t add pacificity. Everybody has an outspoken extended family member, and instead of trying to fight fire with fire, it’s important to learn how to communicate in difficult situations and about controversial subjects.

Some commonly occurring debate topics to look out for this season may be climate change, the midterm elections, and depending on how long it’s been since you’ve sat down with your extended family and entertained the idea of politics, maybe even political events and laws that transpired over summer such as the overturning of Roe v Wade, and proposed bills regarding LGBTQ rights. 

What’s important to keep in mind is that no matter how passionately you may feel about a topic, your family most likely isn’t engaging in these topics to change their mind on  their pre-existing opinions. Oftentimes, trying to convince others to agree with you isn’t worth the turmoil that may ensue in order to get there, and in most cases, preserving peace within a family rather than sparking a mini feud which could last for 20 minutes or months depending on the stubbornness of the parties involved, is the priority. It’s normal and healthy to talk about current events and share opinions with family and friends, but if you sense that the conversation is going south, take the opportunity to redirect or pacify if you can. It’s not always easy to bite your tongue, so removing yourself from the conversation or situation is a viable solution.

Above all, keep in mind that being respectful is key. Don’t make any argument too personal, because insulting someone’s character is hard to come back from. This is supposed to be a time of year filled with gratitude and joy.