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7 Tips to Avoid the Politics Discussion at the Thanksgiving Table

You can avoid unnecessary holiday stress and confusion at your next family gathering. One way to keep the peace is to make sure that politics doesn’t become a talking point if it’s a sensitive topic among your relatives. The holidays are a wonderful time of year where many families prioritize getting together. However, varying opinions […]

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You can avoid unnecessary holiday stress and confusion at your next family gathering. One way to keep the peace is to make sure that politics doesn’t become a talking point if it’s a sensitive topic among your relatives.

The holidays are a wonderful time of year where many families prioritize getting together. However, varying opinions can lead to a holiday disaster when not handled properly – especially political commentaries.

With a few pointers, however, you can avoid a holiday roil. By implementing several skillful interventions, you can make sure that the holidays remain a happy and joyous occasion.

In the spirit of stress-free holiday cheer, the following are seven tips for avoiding political discussions during Thanksgiving.

1. Lay Down the Law (Politely)

Congeniality is the way to ensure positive and memorable family get-togethers. As a holiday host, it’s your job to maintain control and establish the ground rules for family gatherings.

If you know tension is growing among family members, try reaching out to all involved parties ahead of time to establish guidelines for polite behavior. This tactic can compel even the most argumentative family members to play it cool during the holidays.

2. Breathe In, Breathe Out

If, despite your best efforts, one or more relatives decide to bring up politics, remind yourself that if something unfavorable happens – it’s temporary. Resist the innate instinct to respond with your own beliefs.

Also, try to change the subject to a more lighthearted topic. By relaxing and disengaging, you’ll bypass your emotional investment in the argument and won’t feel the need to react.

3. Let’s Give Them Something to Talk About

During family gatherings, parents bring their kids. Accordingly, the holidays are a PG-rated kind of season.

As recommended by the Emily Post Institute – named after 60’s etiquette thought-leader Emily Post – holiday party hosts should try to make sure that everyone sticks to family-friendly conversations, such as:

  • Food
  • Holiday matters
  • Pop-culture
  • Shared experiences
  • Sports
  • Weather

Some conversations are ripe grounds for disagreement, according to the Institute, and include conflict charged topics such as sex, politics and religion. While controversial topics are essential talking points, they require discretion and tact, especially around children.

4. Don’t Go Into the Light

Even if someone expresses a political opinion that varies widely from your own, there’s no need to retort. Despite how you feel about someone else’s political beliefs, you’re not obligated to state your opinion.

You can’t control what other people say, but you most definitely can control your own actions. It’s not worth ruining a family get-together, just to prove that someone else’s political beliefs are wrong because they’re different from your own.

5. Provide Focal Points for Your Family

If your family get-together is an all-day affair, as the “hostess with the mostest,” you should provide ways to keep everyone occupied. One way to avoid political discussions is by organizing a fun crafting activity for kids.

You can also make sure that there are games for kids to play. Although most kids prefer video games, board games or something else that everyone can play creates more opportunities for all family members to bond. Of course, if there’s a major sports event taking place, it’s a good idea to set up an area where the sports fans in the family can keep an eye on the game in comfort.

6. You Are the Captain of Your Ship

If you see trouble brewing, you’re entitled to right the ship. Try to guide the conversation toward a less flammable topic gently.

More than likely, other family members will join you in attempting to steer the conversation into safer waters. By bringing up an alternative subject, you’ll allow other family members to chime in and direct the conversation toward a more positive topic.

7. If Politics Comes Up, Deal With It Appropriately

No matter how much you try to keep things positive for the holidays, there’s always a chance that somehow politics will come up in discussion. As a holiday host, remember to take the high road.

In some instances, a family member will try to ruffle your feathers intentionally. It may help to practice diffusing responses, such as “I’m not sure, I haven’t followed the subject much lately,” or “I’ll be right back.”

Discussions about politics can cause considerable anxiety, especially for kids who may not fully understand the conversation.

If, despite your best efforts, politics enters the conversation, handle it gracefully. This way, your kids can figure out how to react based on your demeanor.  

You want family members to remember the last gathering as fun and exciting – not explosive. You can have a less stressful holiday by recognizing that family get-togethers require grace under pressure – and a little planning ahead.

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