Thanksgiving kicks off a season of reflection, charity, cheer, and turbo-charged political conversations. This past presidential election has created a schism within our society, one that’s with her or without her. It’s incited public fear, protests, and inspired those “who don’t normally do this” to share their political beliefs on social media. Undoubtedly, those beliefs and political standings will be brought up during Thanksgiving.
The political climate is, for what feels like the first time in a very long time, on everyone’s mind and everyone has an opinion. No matter which echo chamber you found yourself living in on November 9, 2016, you’re going to face family members and peers who live and breathe in one that’s different from you. We spoke with Diane Gottsman, a national etiquette expert and owner of The Protocol School of Texas, to get tips on how to best navigate the political waters without ruffling too many familial feathers. Happy discoursing, everyone.
The election is bound to come up during family time. Is it better to remain neutral—quiet even?—when this happens?
Before you voice your opinion, weigh the outcome. If you know you will no doubt offend others with your aggressive nature, exercise restraint and keep it to yourself. The holidays are the time to enjoy family and friends without making others around you uncomfortable. Even if others are starting a political feud, think carefully before jumping in.
How do you suggest one voice their beliefs without ruffling feathers?
I think that when the conversation gets out of hand, the host has the right and responsibility to shut it down. The role of a good guest is to make the host happy while making others around them comfortable. This would be a good time to exercise some etiquette skills.
Say one is met with a negative, maybe uninformed response. Do you suggest politely agreeing to disagree or continuing in a respectful discourse?
I suggest people arrive armed with other topics to discuss. Thanksgiving and the holidays are time for family and friends to get together and make memories. It’s always better to make lasting memories that are positive rather than negative.
One of the most important things I’ve seen come out of this election is the search for respect. How do you suggest one go about explaining their side and perhaps stimulate some empathy?
This is assuming that most people want to continue the debate. Many people are getting tired of the dissent and arguments; they are trying to heal relationships that have been damaged, and a good way to begin the process is to start behaving civilly among family and friends.
At the end of the day, you may not be able to placate everyone’s emotions and viewpoints, but family is family. What do you suggest one does if some feathers get ruffled in the days following Thanksgiving?
Make amends. When things get out of hand, it’s always important to fix it as quickly as possible. There may be a cooling off period, but there is value in taking the high road and admitting that the conversation got out a hand. There are no winners and losers when it comes to conversations among family members that revolve around accusations and hurtful slurs. Instead, I suggest focusing on what you are grateful for and directing the conversation toward positive topics that are lively, interesting, productive, and fun.