Thanksgiving is a time for turkey, family, football — and politics.
For many, politics inevitably becomes a topic of discussion at family gatherings. And after a particularly contentious election season, those discussions have the potential to get heated, as well.
The rhetoric from both sides during the election seems to have really struck fear in people, said Dr. Arundhati Undurti, a psychiatrist at The Vancouver Clinic. People are fearful for their safety and they worry whether they have a place in America, she said.
And that’s not just how Hillary Clinton supporters feel. Those feelings have manifested in people across the political spectrum.
“This narrative popped up about how awful it would be if one side wins,” Undurti said. “And it really shook people to their core.”
But, with a little forethought, you can prepare yourself for those dinner-table debates with your diehard Trump-supporter uncle or devoted Clinton-supporter aunt with whom you don’t see eye-to-eye.
First, decide if political talk is even something you want to engage in during holiday gatherings, Undurti said. If you only want to spend 20 minutes talking about the election, set that ground rule. And if you’re not up for political talk at all, just say so, Undurti said.
“Be able to tell people you’re not OK spending the next two hours debating the merits of Trump versus Clinton,” she said.
It can also be helpful to identify your allies, Undurti said. Touch base with the people you feel comfortable around, those who you feel safe talking to, she said.
“It doesn’t have to be someone who shares the exact same political view, but someone who can separate the politics from the person,” Undurti said.
And if the discussion gets too heated — or if someone isn’t respecting your wishes to not talk politics — get up and leave, Undurti said.
“Give yourself permission to walk away from a conversation that’s super stressful or if you’re feeling attacked,” she said.
Take time to cool off and do something that makes you feel centered, Undurti said. Go for a walk, read a book or listen to some music, she said.
And, if after a break, your feelings still aren’t being considered, explain again that you’re not willing to talk politics, Undurti said.
“At that point, be very firm,” she said, and “disengage from that conversation, at the risk of looking rude, even.”
You can also try shifting the discussion to something more positive, Undurti said. For example, try encouraging your loved ones to help you come up with things for which you’re all grateful.
“In the midst of all this heated rhetoric, it’s nice, especially at Thanksgiving, to say, ‘We have our differences, but as a family, what are we grateful for?'” Undurti said.
And, above all else, be kind to one another, Undurti said. That include that aunt or uncle who can’t stop the partisan talk; they’re likely feeling just as scared and uncertain about the future as you are, she said.
“Just be kind,” Undurti said. “That can go a long way toward easing tensions.”
“We’ve been through a nasty election cycle,” she added. “I think everyone is feeling the after effects, no matter whom they supported.”