I’m on vacation next week and we have a couple of family get-togethers planned. I hope we can avoid talking politics.
I love politics and make a living talking about it, but it’s time for a break, especially because the discourse feels more acrimonious now than any time I can remember.
Maybe our family will avoid politics altogether, and that would be fine. Many Americans are doing that this year. A Reuters Poll found that nearly one-third of those questioned will avoid political conversations with family and friends during the holidays.
“People appear to be more interested in talking about religion, or even their personal finances, with cousins and in-laws than they are in discussing hot-button issues such as tax cuts, Obamacare and the Russian investigation,” Reuters reports.
Imagine that; we would rather reveal personal financial information to crazy Uncle Louie than even try to have a civil conversation about the top political stories.
You do have a choice if politics does come up. Go ahead and have the discussion. It can’t possibly be worse that what we hear in media and read on social media… can it? Therapist Tamar Chansky advises us to give loved ones a wide berth.
“If we can’t change other people, we can make the move and adjust and adapt what we expect of them,” says Chansky. That doesn’t mean you let your brother off the hook during your argument about Trump, but it does mean you probably knew what you were in for before the argument began. Try not to take it personally.
But if you want to avoid the political discussion, just start your own smaller conversation. Miss Manners advises that to avoid getting trapped by a lecturing guest, feel free to start a separate conversation with another nearby person.
I have my own proven method for avoiding uncomfortable discussions. Before politics or religion or finances or Russia or—insert controversy here—comes up, I try to get family talking about “the old days.”
That’s a great way to relive the family history, even if it gets a little distorted over time. It’s personal and often funny. Even if the story is sad, such as the passage of a loved one, it can be an intimate experience that strengthens the family bonds, rather than shredding them.
So I’m going to try to pass on politics during holiday time. If I run into you next week and you bring up the latest controversy in Washington or Charleston, don’t be surprised if I smile and change the subject.
Consider it my way of wishing you an enjoyable Christmas season. There will be plenty to argue about when I get back.