Should people talk politics at family gatherings?


Fact Box

  • The roots of the term 'politics' can be found in the Greek ta politika, which means 'public matters, civic affairs.' Merriam-Webster defines the term in modern times as 'the opinions that someone has about what should be done by governments.' 
  • The American Psychological Association reports that in 2020, '40% of Americans say the political climate has caused strain between them and their family members.'
  • Boston University's top-three recommendations for coping with socio-political stress are to 'limit your intake of news and social media,' 'maintain your routine and engage in healthy activities,' and 'practice relaxation.'
  • Licensed psychologist Marni Amsellem, PhD, relates that in addition to politics, family gossip, money, and religion are among the topics that should also be avoided at family gatherings.

Bethany (No)

Political discussions are something that should be avoided in certain settings, and family gatherings are most definitely one of them. Many people tend to become uncomfortable when faced with talking about politics, as they may not know how to tactfully avoid the subject, or they may not know enough about the discussion to feel like they could contribute to the debate in any way. With many possible viewpoints when it comes to politics, arguments are likely to break out, and relationships may suffer later because of it.

Politics is a subject that, when discussed, can be explosive in nature. Anyone with a view on a topic is almost always prepared to defend their stance relentlessly--which could lead to anger, frustration, and potentially abusive verbiage should the discussion elevate to an aggressive tone.

Additionally, these discussions often require a multitude of time, energy, and information to convey a point successfully, making it difficult to effectively communicate one's stance within the time constraints of a family gathering. Not to mention that, according to experts, politics can activate 'deep personal and societal anxieties.' Indeed, it's hard to sway a listener while having to contend with that. 

A better way to handle wanting to discuss politics with anyone--family or not--is to schedule a conversation with the individual. Public meeting spaces such as coffee shops or parks are great, neutral environments conducive to effective communication--rather than the emotionally charged setting of a family's dining table. 

Politics are worth discussing, especially in the polarized political climate that the US has been experiencing for years. However, it's simply best not to discuss such things while getting together with loved ones. 

Maha (Yes)

According to Pew Research Center, Americans have become more polarized than ever when it comes to politics. In fact, America's political divide is more pervasive than that of other nations. Despite these facts, engaging in political conversations during family gatherings is highly recommended, as many psychologists, mediators, and school counselors believe political discussions can't and shouldn't be ignored. 

Psychologist Vaile Wright explains, 'If you stay on the surface with your relationships to keep the peace and choose not to have these tough conversations with people, what are you losing out on in the long run?'

Family communication is essential for several reasons, including reaching an understanding and encouraging support. Avoiding difficult conversations such as political views won't make divisiveness go away. 

In fact, it will make things worse as these disagreements may manifest in other unhealthy ways. For instance, a study uncovered that bottling up emotions can increase the risk of premature death. Moreover, not acknowledging distressing emotions may lead to loneliness and depression.

Another important reason to discuss politics is the conversation's ability to reveal human elements in the other person. With proper dialogue, people can overcome and eliminate the fear that causes racism and prejudice

Talking about politics with family members is beneficial, and discussing politics with romantic partners is also crucial, as research shows that opening up about political views with partners can improve intimacy. 

However, such discussions must be done productively and peacefully. Strategies like talking one-on-one, listening more, and finding common ground will make both parties engage effectively. Only then can these interactions deliver their benefits to the fullest. 

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