During the holiday season, it is traditional that families gather and spend time together. This season, while it is one of joy and celebration, it is also a time of awkward and difficult confrontations with families of different political ideologies. Whether it is that self-proclaimed “free-thinking” uncle that spends too much time on Facebook, or that Grandparent who listens to a little too much talk show radio, the dinner table can feel like a warzone of intolerant and bigoted opinions. This problem has been amplified by the rise of disinformation in recent years. It can be difficult to navigate these conversations, and while there is no fool-proof guide on how to successfully promote progressive ideas, here is some advice on how to encourage diversity and equity when you face bigotry in your family:
1. Be patient. Patience is truly a virtue when it comes to moments of intolerance. Many people, when it comes to bigotry, are severely misinformed on certain issues. They most likely have lived a very sheltered life or only consume one type of media that feeds into their harmful ideologies. Therefore, one conversation is not going to completely change their worldview. Most likely, they are going to immediately reject any constructive criticism you have towards their argument. That’s why one must be patient. Promoting progressive ideas is an ongoing conversation. While they may refuse to listen to you now, maybe the next time you bring it up they will listen to you a little more. If they reject you again, do not lose hope and revisit the conversation later on. Change does not happen in a day, it happens when it is consistently pushed over long periods.
2. Prepare arguments beforehand. For many people, their lives are continuously surrounded by talking points or data (legitimate or not) that support their ideas. Therefore, they most likely already have a strong argument prepared. Research statistics, consult experts, and prepare how you will respond to anticipated points. The more evidence you have, the more likely it is that they will consider your argument.
3. Know when it is time to stop. Politically charged conversations, regardless if you have positive intentions, can turn south very quickly. Sensitive issues are highly polarized because of the current societal climate. Most people have emotional connections to these arguments, and if approached incorrectly they can feel attacked by your criticism. To a degree, this is good, as discomfort creates motivation to change. But sometimes, it can permanently alter your relationships. It is important to be engaged and aware of when it is appropriate to redirect or end the conversation.
This holiday season, conversations surrounding current political and social issues seem unavoidable. When you visit your loved ones over break, attempt to promote progressive ideas while practicing respect and patience, and potentially, you can create change from the dinner table.