Nationwide, it is a common narrative that politics at the dinner table or at holiday gatherings are strictly banned. Families want to stay peaceful, enjoy time together and possibly just “take a break” from politics. While it is everyone’s personal choice, politics do not have to leave the dinner table, and to take it one step further: they shouldn’t.  

While some holiday gatherings can fall short of the warm family time stereotype, disagreement over politics does not have to be avoided. High tensions and fidget-inducing discomfort can be more reasons than ever to start a constructive discussion. It has become too easy for individuals to decide to give-in or give up on defending their beliefs with those that disagree with them. Instead, this holiday, try to engage in discussion that can help foster new ideas and compromises.  

You arrive Thanksgiving Day to your grandmother’s house. When it’s time for dinner, you realize you are seated directly across from your great-uncle. Immediately, your memory flashes back to all the problematic, cringe worthy Facebook fights you have engaged with him in online. No fear, there is one key difference that can help mitigate a more constructive discussion: you are face to face. Discussions online can often quickly get out of hand, and it is easier to say nastier things to a screen then to a person.

When he brings up his politics, don’t keep your eyes on your plate. Don’t push your potatoes around while your counter-arguments spin through your head without leaving your mouth. Don’t wait for him to take a breath to change the topic to the weather, the football game or something less controversial.

It is easy to believe that arguments over politics are never beneficial. However, if we only talked with those that agree with us, or only read news articles that supported our own opinions and trusted that what we believe is the only answer, our nation would not move forward. If we never attempt to listen to and understand the other side of our beliefs, we fall victim to a closed state of mind, which is a dangerous thing.

It is through active listening, placid discussion and open-mindedness that we learn. In doing this, we can attempt to close the divide that separates our family, communities and nation. Talking politics provides a way for you and your family members to describe experiences they’ve had, talk about how they have or have not been affected, ask and answer questions, and explain why issues matter for individual and nationwide reasons.

If you plan to talk politics this holiday, it would be beneficial to remember that you are not going into discussions to change minds. Instead, take it as a learning experience for all parties involved to attempt to understand one another while maintaining family relationships and attempting to close the rift that may cause tension and divide amongst your family.