Politics at the dinner table: Navigating those awkward conversations

Alexander Hong/Staff

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The polarized political climate of the United States often leads to uncomfortable dinners around the holidays. As soon as someone mentions that they voted for the opposing party, the conversation tends to heat up. This conflict brings up the broader issue of dealing with family or friends with whom you disagree.

These disagreements aren’t always over something as trivial as opinions on ice cream flavors, however. These differences in perspective range from whether we should allow refugees into the country to whether current gun laws are loose or restrictive enough to satisfy the American people. Politics can often be a deciding factor when choosing friendships. They define the essence of what we think is moral and acceptable treatment.

I’ve stood up for Planned Parenthood plenty of times at the dinner table. I’ve had to tell my family that it offers services other than abortions, such as STI testing and birth control. What is the appropriate response to someone who doesn’t believe women deserve comprehensive health care? When people don’t have access to the facts, they base their opinions on stigma and emotions.

By providing my experience, I altered the way my parents looked at the health organization. Planned Parenthood was no longer the angry feminist women’s clinic to my parents, but the doctor’s office.

The first step to tackling politics around the holidays is to thoroughly gauge how much tension and conflict you are willing to handle. Make sure to take care of yourself in the ways you need before engaging in a stressful conversation. I always like to take my time outside or just excuse myself to the bathroom to gather my thoughts. At a certain age, you’re allowed to walk out and leave if you feel like it’s what you need to do.

Standing up for yourself and what you believe in is your best bet. But saving your energy because you feel unsafe to speak out is also perfectly all right. Remember that it’s not your job to educate others, and people more times than not find comfort in their ignorance.

The more you challenge ideas you don’t believe in, the more conversations you can open up. Talking about these issues is a start. You never know the impact your words may have on someone else. You may be the reason why someone thinks differently about a topic. Some members of your family may even agree with you and side with you during your next dinner conversation.

Learn to be an ally. Protect vulnerable groups, even if this requires you to call out your racist uncle. Did he just make an offensive joke? Actualize these situations and refuse to allow microaggressive comments to transpire without consequence.

Don’t escalate an argument during appetizers when you know there are several courses left. Sometimes, certain conversations can’t be avoided. Remember to still enjoy whatever food is on the table. The goal of the holidays is to unwind, so maintain your calm for as long as possible. Practice your patience and your debate skills. Don’t be afraid to tell your family what you really think. Expect politics at the dinner table to get as hot as the food on it; walking in prepared makes all the difference.

Contact Jasmine Monfared at [email protected] .