Politics is one of those topics that everyone says to avoid at Thanksgiving, yet it also seems to be the one that’s always coming up. Multiple groups seem to think that the one time a year many families see each other is also a great time to start bringing up controversial topics and lecturing a captive audience on why your way is superior and anyone who disagrees is a racist, sexist idiot. While some of you can’t help but be That Guy (you know who you are), I’d like to think that most of us would rather stay on speaking terms with our immediate and extended family and continue to receive invites to family gatherings. Here’s a few helpful ideas to keep you from being anything from disinvited to family functions to disinherited.
First, know your audience. Odds are good you’ve known your family your whole life. Even if you don’t see them often, you probably already have a pretty good grasp on what they think about issues and what you could say to push their buttons. (Hint: this is not a challenge to do so.) If you don’t feel like you have a good grasp on their opinions, maybe you could go full Sun Tzu read up on them from what you assume to be their point of view.
Next, accept the possibility that you might be wrong. I know, it sounds completely crazy, and odds are good that if you’re reading this site you have some pretty strong and well-established opinions. How do you think any conversation on political topics with your family is likely to go when you start from a position of “everything you know is wrong”? Yeah, about like that.
Finally, try to remember that differing opinions does not bad people make. You’re kind of stuck with the family you have. You’re going to be seeing them at future Thanksgivings, Christmases, Easter dinner, birthdays, weddings, funerals, and so on. Assuming that they’re just awful is going to make every single one of those meetings into a pile of awkward that other people will try to avoid.
If you can’t just avoid politics, you can avoid being a jerk about it. Once you’ve mastered that with your family, you might even try it with others. It just might work out for you.