Is Thanksgiving dinner a dread? Got that family member who is of whatever-party-you're-not that just seems ridiculous? Does it always turn into a political meltdown?
It doesn't have to.
Try something new this Thanksgiving and see what works. Here are a few potential strategies:
If things haven't fallen apart yet, try directing the conversation towards somewhere that builds an understanding of shared values. Don't play into the roles that we've been habituated to play by wedging politics... that just primes others to respond with anger.
Don't bother with opinions. Start instead with "hey I found something interesting..." that breaks the mold. A few good examples:
- "You know, I found that most people agree in the broad brushstrokes on abortion in the US even though we're about 50/50 on being 'pro life' and 'pro choice.' "
- "I found something interesting: depending on how you frame it, you can easily show that the density of guns in a state has either a very strong correlation or no correlation at all with different kinds of death."
- "I read a thing recently that challenged me to prioritize my political positions from top to bottom and I realized XYZ when I did that..."
- "I read a thing recently that put some good questions and analysis into asking why the US seems to be an outlier in national healthcare spending vs. life expectancy."
- "I wonder what's the leading cause of premature death in the US and what our policy is to try to reduce that?"
That way you have political issues that you're exploring from the perspective of a curious analyst, and you can ask some questions about it together, and reinforce your shared values, including (perhaps):
- We want fewer unwanted pregnancies
- We want fewer premature deaths
- We want to improve life expectancy and healthcare affordability in the US
And maybe acknowledge that our disagreements are just questions of "what's the best way to do each of these things," and that that's a potentially really interesting discussion to have.
Get them to Sell
If they start saying something that seems really absurd and want you to engage, try this line: "So I'm of course coming from a different direction, but I'm happy to listen: try explaining it to me as if you were trying to sell me a new product. I'm a customer of your competitor's brand, but you want me to buy your brand instead and become a loyal, life-long customer. What would you say?"
In our experience that's changed how someone's approached the conversation. When you get someone's brain to go into "sales mode," it makes someone less prone to rant or pick a fight.
Bonus Advice: no matter who starts talking about the Syrian refugee crisis, don't compare it to the British pilgrims, Native Americans, or Thanksgiving. You will win no points with anyone. We promise.
For some more guidance, take a look at some of our earlier articles:
- Framing a policy position as a win for both sides
- Imagining the opponent you want to debate
- Changing minds, a story
- On "Dealing With Extremists"
- What if we talked politics like salespeople?
You're welcome, and Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. Hopefully our overseas readers will also get something out of this.
Let us know any success stories in comments below!