Dr. Forshee spoke with Elite Daily about how to handle difficult political conversations at the dinner table.
If you’d rather get into those serious conversations immediately, it’ll probably benefit you to go into them with an open mind and a calm state. Mental health expert Dr. Danielle Forshee tells Elite Daily by email that a big thing is to remember to speak only for yourself: “Keep your thoughts and feelings about the topic only relevant to you,” she advises. “Only speaking for yourself and not others will lessen the likelihood that others will be offended if what you say is in direct opposition.” She points out that “you cannot control others,” and you should be prepared for them to have other viewpoints.
Oh, and avoid insults. “Criticizing or degrading someone’s character as a result of having varying opinions will create drama and hurt feelings,” she says.
Personally, a strategy I like to use is open-ended questions. That way, you can easily feel out the mood of the room and where the conversation is headed. If things start to get too tense, you can quickly drop or change the subject. “So, about this potato salad!”
Of course, all this isn’t to say that if the conversation is going a place you’re uncomfortable with that you have to stay quiet. Anti-hate group organization the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has a number of tips and tricks for addressing “everyday bigotry,” including tips for dealing with family, such as bringing up shared values and appealing to family ties. Depending on the situation, you can try things like setting limits, asking for a response, and even clearly stating what’s happening (something like: “You keep telling offensive jokes even though I’ve asked you to stop.”). Dr. Forshee, for her part, suggests that if someone says something offensive, try using “a simple response such as: I can appreciate your standpoint, but we have two different opinions on the subject.”
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