Whether it is religion, the recent local election, national politics, or racial tensions, you are bound to encounter difficult conversations fueled by intense emotion this holiday season. However, there is still hope. This article will give you tips on how to navigate these conversations and ways to be mindful of other people’s thoughts, beliefs, and feelings.
Before you head to your holiday destination, think through your holiday traditions and the guests you will encounter. What will your mom say that will probably upset you? Will your cousin make a snide comment about your major? Is your friend going to comment on the latest election? What other possible triggers are there? Make a list of these possible sesitive topics.
Now that you have a list of potential “danger zones”, go through them. Decide a plan of action for how to handle each situation. Will you engage in a conversation about the differing points of view? Here are some tips for handling those conversations.
The first tip is to speak respectfully. Honoring another’s right to their opinion can be difficult when someone states an opinion that directly contradicts your beliefs. Speaking with respect for the other person’s beliefs, religion, political stances, and identities helps to reduce conflict by showing your friends or family that, while you may disagree, you respect their right to have an opinion. OSCR has more Tips and Tools on how to address conflicts like these in a constructive way.
After saying your piece, it would be wise and respectful to listen. Try not to listen with the intent to reply, but instead listen with the intent to learn more about the opposing point of view. Listening not only gives you time to learn something new, but it also demonstrates to those around you that you are willing to hear other viewpoints and respect those who have differing beliefs. Even if the person you are speaking to does not respect your opinion or your right to have a differing opinion, listening to them will help ease possible tensions.
Finally, remember that you always have the right to leave a discussion or politely ask if the topic could be changed. Your emotions are important too, and you can always choose to remove yourself from uncomfortable situations. Journaling is another positive way to explore your thoughts after a difficult conversation. For more ideas on how to handle holiday stress, check out this Buzzfeed article or Stylecaster’s savvy ways to handle holiday arguments.
Don’t forget to take a break from the stress that holiday gatherings might bring. Regardless of how your holiday goes, remember to take some time for yourself. Breathe, decompress, get your thoughts together, and acknowledge your emotions. Remember that you are gathering with certain people for a reason. Often, those around you during the holidays are beloved family members and friends. Set aside your differing views of religion, politics, or culture and take a moment to remember why you gather with these people.
-Contributed by Erika Aldrich, Neighborhood Ambassador-Germantown