How to approach discussions at the dinner table this Thanksgiving

By Nia Anthony

Elm Staff Writer 

With the holiday season comes the inevitable panic of talking to one’s family about sensitive topics. Next to how you’re doing in school and your relationship status, politics is on the list of conversation topics we may all be dreading. 

To avoid butting heads with those at the dinner table, here are a few helpful tips on how to carefully approach talking about politics with your family this holiday season.

Come with the facts 

The expression “you can’t argue with facts” does hold true. Although self-explanatory, it can be really easy to bring generalization or even hearsay into your political arguments. You want to stay away from this in your conversations with your family members. 

Before saying anything, make sure you fact-check across a couple of different sources from all political spectrums. 

You also might want to stay away from using statistics in your arguments, as they can be inherently biased. According to Towards Data Science , there are multiple types of statistical bias that influence results, the most common being selection bias. 

“Selection bias is the phenomenon of selecting individuals, groups or data for analysis in such a way that proper randomization is not achieved, ultimately resulting in a sample that is not representative of the population,” Towards Data Science said.

Vet your sources 

When doing your research for your favorite political official or newly introduced policy, gather your information from both sides. 

If you’re ever unsure, make sure to do a quick fact-check with an independent source, such as The Associated Press, National Public Radio, or PBS. 

Consider the background 

We all have different life experience. Consider that your family members may have grown up in a different situation than you, be it socioeconomic brackets, decades, or levels of education. 

College-educated individuals may vote differently than those who are not, those who are living in cities may vote differently than those in the suburbs, etc. It’s important to keep these things in mind before arguing your point of view.

Check your stress levels 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, your mental health is just as important as your physical health. 

Be mindful that having another stressful conversation this time of year can lead you to a negative place. 

According to the World Health Organization, it is important to check in with your mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 “For many people, it is challenging to adapt to the new realities of working from home, temporary unemployment, home-schooling of children, and lack of physical contact with other family members, friends and colleagues. Added to this comes managing the fear of contracting the virus and worry about people close to us who are particularly vulnerable,” they said.

Before getting into a heated discussion or even a full-blown argument with your relatives, remember that we’re still in the middle of a deadly pandemic and that this political season was especially grueling. 

Check in with yourself; anxiety-inducing conversations may not be worth it. 

Explain why policies are important to you 

According to the United Nations, young people today make up a lot of the opinion surrounding politics on both a domestic and global scale. 

“Youth constitute the majority of the population in many countries and have an increasingly strong social and environmental awareness, which has the power to transform our societies towards a low-carbon and climate-resilient future,” they said. 

If you care about something, or if policies directly affect you, be sure to speak up. Often, we don’t realize how the policies affect other people. The easiest way to getting through to your family could be through an ethical approach, talking about a policy that affects you. 

Whatever happens this holiday season, be sure to equip yourself with the tools to navigate those tough conversations. Spending time with your family, virtual or otherwise, could be a much-needed break these next few weeks.

Featured Photo caption: With Thanksgiving just around the corner, here are some tips to help keep dinner table discussions under control. Photo by Rebecca Kanaskie.

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