By: Steve Gainey, MA, LLP, ADS, CAADC, EAC Clinical Specialist – Are you starting to think about holiday get-togethers and dreading the conversations that might arise? The uncle who is or is not against vaccines, the cousin who brings up politics on every occasion and makes their opinions loud and clear, the gossip about the other family member’s lives. The list can go on and on.
These “hot topic” conversations are the bane of many holiday gatherings.
As a therapist, I have been hearing of these conflicts for decades and they have become even worse over the last year. Now, as the holidays approach, the topic has been brought up even more.
If you have relatives who are not on the same page as you in regard to many “hot topics,” these may become arguments and then escalate in to raised voices and wounded feelings.
Recognize that families have different views. Your job is NOT to change their mind. That deflates half of the conflict. As much as you are steadfast in your beliefs, they are, too – so you can relate to that part.
Arguing with the other person and sharing statements that “disprove” their point just energizes the other person. If the person keeps bringing up the issue with you, use the broken record technique and say, “I’m not discussing this at this time.” If they push you on the issue, stick to that same statement over and over.
When speaking, speak kindly and have empathy. Statements like, “I know you feel that way” can be helpful. This goes both ways for those who are like-minded as you and those who are not. Listening or understanding where they are coming from does not mean you agree.
If you are having the gathering at your house, you get to set the rules for those who are invited. Letting others know very clearly that topics of covid, vaccines, politics or other “hot topics” are off the table (or not) will set the tone for the holiday get together. You are open to discuss, but at another time and place.
It is also important that you have let everyone know up front, not at the door, what the standard, expectations are for the gathering. Do those coming have to be vaccinated or not, mask or not mask, etc.? That way the person can make their own decision to attend or not.
Likewise, if you are the one going to the gathering and do not know the expectations, you should ask before you go.
Above all, make sure you take time to focus on the things you, love, like, and enjoy about the holidays.