Home On the Agenda 5 Tips For Handling Difficult Holiday Conversations

5 Tips For Handling Difficult Holiday Conversations

November 27, 2019

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

By Vania Andre

The holiday season can be filled with lots of joy and laughter, but there are times when seeing some of your closest family and friends can be hard to handle — especially when there are differing opinions on touchy topics. Despite the tension that may arise while passing the salt at the dinner table over topics like how Congress should tackle criminal justice reform, there are ways to keep any animosity at bay. Here are 5 tips on making sure your holiday dinner conversations are as smooth as possible.

Listen to understand, not to criticize
While it may be tempting to jump in when you hear a comment you don’t agree with, just keep in mind that the goal here is to listen so you can have a real understanding of how the other person feels and views the issue. People’s views aren’t always black and white. , More often than not, there are complicated, yet sincere, reasons why people have stances on certain issues.

If you still can’t grasp their logic, ask questions – respectfully
There are going to be times when no level of explaining will help you understand another’s point of view. The best route to go when this happens is to simply ask the person to clarify arguments that aren’t getting through to you. You can respectfully challenge each other. Just remember to keep it civil, which brings me to my next point.

Refrain from personal attacks and generalizing
Contentious discussions, especially with loved ones, should always be based on facts and your own personal experiences. Name-calling and making broad statements is never helpful and will only serve to heighten an already sensitive conversation.

Be conscious of body language
Continuing on the theme of respect, be mindful of your body language. Experts say nonverbal cues account for more than 50 percent of communication. So next time you go to roll your eyes or sigh heavily after someone makes a comment, stop yourself in your tracks or you’ll just end up aggravating the situation.

Explore shared values and promote understanding
Although we don’t hear it often, there is often enough common ground for us to start working together on solving problems. Focus on those areas of agreement instead of harping on where there are divisions. That’s the only way there’ll ever be meaningful progress on an issue.

Enjoyed these conversation tips? Check out Next Generation Community Engagement where you’ll find discussion guides and information on resources and events aimed at creating impactful conversations with engaged audiences. Sign up for our newsletter for updates on our work and more.

Happy Holidays!