How to avoid political arguments during the holidays



Scenes such as the one shown above show how far political arguments can go in ruining families’ holiday festivities.

Anthony Strominger, Staff Writer

Many Milford students have witnessed a delicious holiday meal become unappetizing when politics are brought to the table. These constant arguments over events that are often outside of our control may end up ruining an otherwise great holiday experience. According to a 2018 poll by the Pew Research Center, 60% of Americans seem to be okay discussing politics with family. Of course, that means that there is a significant portion of the population that are not. Simply avoiding political talk is easier on paper than in practice, as someone could bring up whatever is happening in Washington at any time. Hopefully, these following tips can help ease any tension between you and your family during these practically inevitable conversations, and also get your holiday gathering back to some semblance of normalcy.


What’s behind political leanings?

Believe it or not, there is actually some evidence from the University of Nebraska and Rice University, stating that differences in political ideologies may root from personality characteristics and biological tendencies. These tendencies cause people to desire different concepts than others, even if they are family. Conservatives tend to want security, predictability, and authority, while liberals are more likely to be fine with complexity, change, and novelty. These differences are a major reason why we may have different political ideologies than our family members.


Agree to disagree

 It is important to realize that everyone, including your family members, has different experiences, ideas, and opinions, and that trying to change them is usually difficult. Thus, most political arguments will likely end with no opinions actually being changed. If the argument does not seem to be going anywhere, it is usually the best option to just drop it and talk about something else, anything else, as long as it does not cause the argument to become more heated and family members to lose respect for one another. 

A healthy family relationship involves each person having respect for one another and their beliefs, even if they personally disagree with them. “Even if they do not agree on everything, healthy families are kind and respectful of other opinions,” says wellness coach Elizabeth Scott. Family members are people that you will be in contact with for your whole life, or at least for a substantial portion of it. This means that there really is no point in pointing out how they are “wrong” in an attempt for them to take your side on one petty political argument.


Use “I” statements

At first glance, this may not seem like much. However, using “I” statements may help make you more approachable. Rather than stating your opinion like it is fact, these statements make it more clear that it is just an opinion. Basically, this makes your opinion more about you and not about trying to speak for other people, or telling other people what to believe. This should hopefully help create a safe environment for you and your family members to freely share your beliefs without the fear of judgement. 

Set boundaries

Setting boundaries can definitely help silence or move the political discussion somewhere else. This is particularly important if children are present at the holiday gathering, or if certain topics may make people uncomfortable. Knowing when to stop talking about politics can be a factor determining whether or not the argument will even get dreadful in the first place. If you sense that the discussion is turning into more of an argument, maybe try bringing up something else, anything else, to try and steer the conversation in a more cheerful, fun, and festive direction.

If this does not work, then try asking family members to move to another room, so their argument cannot ruin your holiday. If they ignore you, maybe just go ahead and step out yourself, even for a few minutes, in order to catch a break from the heat coming from the dinner table.


Speak on topics you know about

Many people want to assume that they know everything about every issue, although that can certainly not be the case. It is usually common to think that if one admits that they do not have all of the information needed to discuss a certain issue, that their family will think that they are stupid or ill-informed. If you are uncomfortable doing this, it may be the best option to simply step out.

However if the discussion seems calm, it may be beneficial for you to stick around and listen to the perspectives of your family members. Then, whether it be while you are eating or after the fact, think about what they said and form your own conclusions. 

No matter the nature of the political talk, at least one of these tips should be able to be applied to it. The bottom line is that time with family during the holidays should not be dedicated to breaking bonds, but rather making them. After all, isn’t that why you are with them in the first place?