The Holidays. Some can’t wait for them to start, others can’t wait for them to be over. Spending time with family, extended family and loved ones sometimes means connecting with people whose experiences and perspectives can be quite different from our own. And we would be lying if we said these times were always filled with easy-going conversations and joy. Countless topics can get people fired up around the dinner table and make it feel like a food fight could break out at any moment!
Have no fear! We’ve got your back with these tips on how to engage.
- Lead with shared values. If you’re spending the holidays with people, either family or chosen family, chances are you have some shared principles. When you feel conversation headed into divisive territory, you can call their attention to the common values you share. And its doubtful your family and friends value racism, homophobia, and able-ism. Remind them of that!
- Explain without blame.When a statement crosses a line, you don’t have to make like Elsa and “Let It Go!” It is important to stand up for your personal perspective, but it’s also important to remember that more often than not, no one intends to hurt others even if someone’s remarks did cause you hurt. You can acknowledge an offense and explain your perspective, but do so without placing blame. And leave room to know: you can offend as well. None of us are immune from foot-in-mouth disease, no matter the size of our Chuck Taylors!
- Share resources.You know how to find good information: I mean, you found this article after all! Ye Olde World Wide Web can back you up in a dispute over provable facts. There are plenty of resources out there on topics from transphobia to microaggressions and everything in between! Because when we know better, we do better.
- Take care of yourself. It is not your job to “fix” others. You can’t “solve” all the world’s social struggles over one tofurkey dinner! For the sake of maintaining relationships in the long-term it is okay to take a break. You do not ever need to hurl yourself into unproductive disputes that will leave both sides hurt and angry.
Just think: if you hone your skills at hard conversations with those who know and love you, imagine how talented you will be at having these conversations at school, on the job, and out in the wide world!
Best of luck!
A native of Massachusetts, Anthony moved to Chicago after graduation from Bowdoin College with a B.A. in English and Theatre. Fierce advocate for those who's voices are not heard nearly enough.