how not to argue with your family at christmas

How to survive the Christmas holidays with your Tory family

The Waitrose mince pies are out again x

Snowflake is the seasonally appropriate label that may be hurled at you over the dinner table if you’re heading back to a Tory-voting family this Christmas. Your mum thinks Matt Hancock was wonderful on I’m A Celeb. Your grandad keeps talking about Churchill. It’s all very back to Blighty, Boris, Brexit, have-another-Waitrose-mince-pie. And it could well drive you insane. 

We’re not saying that all parents and grannies are Conservative but, statistically, they’re more likely to be. And festive political debate (read ferocious fighting) is so widespread that people have even started making “arguing about politics over Christmas dinner” playlists on Spotify. 

Extended periods of boozy quality time with family obviously lend themselves to conflict. It starts with “it wasn’t what you said but how you said it” and ends with your dad sulking in the shed because you’re pissed at him for not boycotting the homophobic World Cup

So, just in case you’re concerned you might set fire to something other than the Christmas pudding while you’re home for the holidays, here are all of the ways you can survive a very Tory family Christmas: 

Find some allies 

You favourite cousin will have your back and together you can make it out alive. Your allies don’t necessarily have to have the same political views as you, just a willingness to create a diversion, like a walk or help washing up, if things get heated with your family’s biggest Karen.

Create a seating plan 

Preferably, put your racist uncle in the garden. 

Ration the booze 

This is literally what nobody wants to hear. But alcohol is argument juice. So, either limit drinking entirely or identify which spirits make you (and those around you) want to come out swinging after five hours in the nearest pub. 

“People are more stupid when they are emotional – when we become emotional, we become less rational and begin to see things in black and white thinking, as we become less connected to our pre-frontal cortex (thinking brain),” says life coach Nick Hatter.

“And people become even more stupid after a few drinks — because they’ve lost some of their inhibitions, making it more likely there will be a heated debate. It is extremely difficult to have a calm and reasoned debate with someone who is overly emotional, and sometimes it is better to end the conversation, change the subject, walk away, etc.

Do not, under any circumstances,  get hangry

Empty stomachs are the root of all conflict. “Be mindful of your own psychological state,” Nick warns. “Are you a bit tipsy, tired or hungry? This can make us more irritable, emotional and reactive and more likely to have a heated debate. You might be better off going for a nap or going to sleep early, or plugging into your phone/laptop.”

Or, alternatively, putting yourself in a chocolate coma by eating the last dregs of the Quality Streets.

made in chelsea christmas

Credit: Channel 4

Go and have a nap (run away) 

Alternatively, go for a walk. But, essentially, get out of there and have some time alone. It might feel like you’re a prisoner in your own home but you are not bound by sprouts and Monopoly. If things get toxic, just get going.

“Nobody has to know,” says Nick.  “If asked, you can say ‘I just need some fresh air.’

Pick your battles 

Ultimately, you can’t fight over everything and it’s important to set boundaries. “You can use phrases like ‘Hey, it’s Christmas – let’s change the subject’, ‘I don’t want to discuss politics right now’, ‘I’d prefer not to share my views on this’, or ‘Can we talk about something else please?'” says Nick.

And if in doubt, remember those noise cancelling headphones you got for Christmas are actually super effective. 

Educate from a distance 

Once you’re in the safety of your own home you might get the urge to say a few things you couldn’t muster the strength to over the festive period— we’ll call it roast potato lethargy.

So, in the new year, feel free to email that relative who wouldn’t let you get a word in edgeways with a few educational resources attached. But be warned, this could feel like engaging with a very over familiar troll and lecturing people can trigger something called The Backfire Effect. 

“The Backfire Effect in psychology is where presenting conflicting logic and evidence to someone can make them become more entrenched in their strongly-held beliefs,” explains Nick. Such is the case when trying to argue with die-hard and religious supporters of football clubs, for example. Likewise, some people can become religious about political parties and stances. Even if you are factually correct, the other person may not be willing to drop their beliefs.”

Minimise the tension and give up

“Diffuse arguments by using phrases such as ‘I hear what you’re saying’, ‘Thanks for sharing’, ‘It sounds like this is really important to you’, ‘I can see how that would be frustrating'” recommends Nick.

“People like to feel seen and heard. The past couple of years have been tough, and some people may just need to vent — and politics may be the vehicle they do this with. You can also reflect back what you’ve heard, eg. ‘So what you’re saying is that you’re angry because… is that right?’. You can bite your tongue and instead try to be a compassionate listener.”

Equally, if they keep talking, they’ll probably expose the flaws in their own argument so you won’t have to bother. Stunning.

“The winner of any argument is the person who leaves with peace in their heart and mind,” concludes Nick. “As the old wisdom goes: ‘In life it’s important to know when to stop arguing with people and simply let them be wrong.'”

Featured image credit via Channel 4. 

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