YES FROM EXPERTS IN THE FIELD
NO FROM EXPERTS IN THE FIELD
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WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Is it OK to discuss politics
at the holiday table?
is a psychology
professor at Harvey
( hmc.edu) in Claremont, California,
who studies how
people react to
William B. Flynn
is a professor of
Franklin Pierce University in Rindge,
a licensed clinical
a member of the
American Psychological Association.
THE THANKSGIVING TABLE need not be a politics-free zone. In fact, sharing
political views at this time of year can be an appropriate way to cultivate connection with family and friends. The trick? Bring light, not heat.
Even when you feel certain that you have the best or most defensible view on
a proposed policy or a particular politician, chances are you don’t truly understand every single nuance or have access to every possible piece of information.
Add to the mix the fact that everyone brings to their perceptions different histories, personalities, motivations, dreams and fears. Others most certainly see
issues differently than you do. Be humble, and let that humility drive curiosity.
Rather than trying to convince others that you are right and they are wrong,
commit instead to learning about and trying to understand their points of view.
Ask questions like “How do you see it?” and “What’s your take?” Invite others to
share their thoughts. Open your comments with phrases like “I’ve been trying
to figure out” and “I wonder if.” In other words, bring light.
And leave the heat behind. This isn’t the place for an argument. Don’t try
to convince anyone to adopt your point of view, ruffle feathers or cut someone down to size. Avoid sweeping generalizations that characterize groups as
monolithic entities. Refrain from parroting headlines or assertions heard on
talk sho ws, and don’t pound fists, shout or call names. All these things can raise
the temperature in the room and under the collars of people you care about,
creating distance instead of connection.
When we approach political conversations with humility and curiosity, our
world becomes even more complex and interesting. When we entertain the
possibility that we have not cornered the perceptual market, we realize that we
stand to learn from listening to others, including those family members and
friends with whom we have chosen to gather over the holidays. That is the gift
of connection. And for this, we give thanks. C
A MEANINGFUL exchange of ideas about politics or current events during
family gatherings can stimulate animated dialogue. However, political discussions should take place away from the holiday dinner table.
As we gather to celebrate the holidays, we typically talk with a family member, catch up with an in-law or speak with other guests and move on. This casual
give-and-take can be difficult to sustain once seated at the dinner table, and it
is not uncommon for family members with dominant or highly assertive personalities to take advantage of a captive audience to incite an argument. Alcohol
can further escalate family tension and disagreements.
As a clinical psychologist, I am constantly reminded of how often political
debates among couples and families can go awry. I have counseled increasing
numbers of couples seeking therapy as a result of contentious conversations
over their political differences. Many of these arguments start at the dinner
table and spiral out of control, causing increased tension between spouses and
Clearly, this can have a serious impact on children and increase stress and
anxiety among all family members. While it is important that children are
aware of different values their parents may hold, angry arguments may affect
their emotional well-being.
Listening, accommodation and compromise are key components when
expressing differences. The holidays often bring families together and may
present a rare opportunity for extended family interaction. Maintaining lively
debates is encouraged—in the proper setting—to give children the opportunity
to learn how to express themselves and understand they have the right to formulate their own opinions, attitudes and value systems.
We should teach children by our example how to agree and disagree without
malice or contentiousness. This is a pre-emptive way to avoid family discord
and to encourage positive, healthy interactions among family members. C
OCTOBER DEBATE RESULTS
Would a signi;cantly longer
lifespan be a good thing?
Percentage re;ects votes received
by October 17, 2017.
Results may re;ect Debate being
picked up by blogs.
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