How to survive talking politics this Thanksgiving

Because you can’t unfriend your family IRL

With Thanksgiving just around the corner and the 2016 election fresh on everyone’s mind, there’s one topic that’s bound to come up this holiday season: politics. While every family gathering is guaranteed to bring forth a mixed bag of opinions and political views, here are some tips to help you survive and thrive in some of the more painful scenarios that might come up when your family and friends are talking turkey.

If somebody mentions the election…

Take this as an opportunity to listen. If you’re like me, you left your rural hometown to attend a swanky liberal arts school in a different state. Everyone in the US has strong opinions about the election, and your friends’ and family’s opinions might be different than those that dominate your college campus. That’s okay. Take a breath. Listen and remember: Compromise only can occur when both parties are ready to hear what the other person is saying. If your family’s as receptive as mine, your calmness will be graciously returned.

If your relatives says something racist/homophobic…

Remember that people fear the unknown. They always have, and they always will. Take a breath and assume this comment is coming from a place of fear. For some people, this step might be enough. For other people, they might feel the need to address the comment. Both responses are perfectly acceptable. What is not acceptable, however, is name-calling on either participant’s part. If you cannot participate in a civil discussion, disengage. It’s Thanksgiving, and you shouldn’t have to defend the Black Lives Matter movement, and you shouldn’t have to explain why building a wall is a terrible idea. You don’t have to “agree to disagree,” but you should agree to salvage the evening. Have a glass of wine and go watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade instead. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you won’t change your relatives’ minds in an evening.

If your family members ask how they’re handling it at your “liberal school”…

Be open and honest. I’m so proud of the dialogue Kenyon has fostered in these weeks after the election, and the openness and the support I’ve seen on campus has made me fall in love with my college all over again. Talk about the forums your college has hosted, or talk about the protests students have staged. Regardless, talk about the fact that your college is giving you a space to talk about what’s going on in the country.

When you feel as if you have been directly insulted…

It will sting, but remember that your family loves you. You love them, too, or else you wouldn’t be there spending the holidays with them. Instead of being passive-aggressive or flinging insults back at them, tell them their comment was hurtful. Either they’ll either apologize, or they’ll shrug off your response. Regardless, be the person who walks away, rather than the one who engages in such a hurtful dialogue.

If a relative comments on how much your opinions have changed…

Take it as a compliment. College and plain old time are sure ways for a person to grow and adopt new ideas. In fact, your parents should be concerned if you’re the exact same as the last time they saw you. For freshmen, it might have been just a few months since you were home. For juniors and seniors, it might have been years. Regardless, you’re spending semesters reading books and watching films and meeting people you never would have met if you weren’t in college—your perspective is going to change. That is what’s supposed to happen, and it’s all a part of growing up.

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