The holidays are right around the corner. Many of us will be spending time with family and friends. Creating or being in a joyful environment may be a tough task due to the ongoing political divisions in the nation. Spending the holidays with loved ones who believe what they hear from Fox News, Rush or Breitbart may be aggravating, upsetting or stressful and put an ugly taint on your holidays.
Preparation is helpful as you navigate your holidays with “Uncle Extreme.” Take a moment to consider what is important for you this year. When conversations heat up will you play it safe and lay low, maybe push back a little or go full throttle? Perhaps making a plan ahead of time about how you will react and what you will say would be helpful.
Typically, one tactic for dealing with potentially uncomfortable or even confrontational conversations is steering the conversation to neutral topics. Chatting about sports, “Who do you think will be in the playoffs?” (there are always playoffs) is usually a harmless starter. Too, people love to talk about themselves. Being an active listener and asking others questions about themselves will endear you to them. Using the gathering to catch up with those you have not seen in a while and being thankful for one another are roots of why we celebrate.
As an author, it is important to be able to understand the thinking of those unlike you, understand their rationale for the decisions they make and feel the level of passion and convictions they have for their beliefs. Learn from Uncle Extreme. While carving the turkey, smothering the potatoes with gravy and listening to Uncle Extreme, think about how you would describe their feelings in your next book, how you might insert their irrational thoughts into your characters.
Although I am very much in favor of keeping conversations light and pleasant, I would like to suggest an alternative called comfortable confrontation. If Uncle Extreme insists on discussing politics, this is a wonderful opportunity for you to ask gentle, comfortable questions and, with kindness, rebut their misconceptions with reality. Your job is to be prepared to give a logical, non-emotional account of facts. This is where thinking ahead and preparation is crucial. Pick your battles. Research the reality based facts and also research the information (propaganda) Uncle Extreme may have heard. Think through how to amicably end the conversation, maybe with a joke or reference to a happy family memory.
Asking open-ended questions where answers flow freely usually makes room for civil discussions. Examples of open-ended questions are: If you could live in a perfect country, what would that be like? What are some things that are most important for the country to correct? How have both parties changed over the years? When people do not feel boxed in a corner defending their beliefs, they are often more open to discussion. By using open-ended questions, you are asking those with a different belief than yours to explain how they came to their decisions. It is good for us to have differing opinions, ideas and beliefs. It is good for us to have comfortable discussions amid uncomfortable topics. Enjoy the meal and enjoy your family. Love them, honor them by being kind, thoughtful and caring.
I advocate love. I advocate kindness. I advocate patience. You can do all three while encouraging civil conversations with the Uncle Extremes of the world. Who knows, they may return the gesture by asking why you fervently believe what you believe. Be ready!
Thank you for reading this blog each month. I am very grateful for every reader and all comments. You make me a better person and writer. Hootenanny will take the place of my blog for December and we will meet back here January, 2018.
May you have the best holiday!