Bring it to Barb

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Dear Barb,

My family and I differ in our political views and the holidays are quickly approaching. I have a very strong political opinion and it is difficult to keep quiet. Should I bring my views into the conversation in a careful way? We get along as a family very well generally, except if we consume more alcohol than we should.

Signed,

Not Looking for Conflict

Dear Not Looking for Conflict,

This heightened political arena has been very damaging to many families and it is unfortunate because after things calm down politically, you will still have the same friends and family!

My first thought is the principle I have adopted for years: “How someone behaves when things or situations DON’T go their way says everything about their character.” Think about this as you observe people who speak when they are upset and disagree or how they react when things don’t go their way. Anyone can be on good behavior when everything is roses! 

Consider it a test at the holiday functions. Will you pass the test? If love is what we all need and we should strive for, then our conversations should reflect that. 

Be careful: Others may try and bait you into a conflict or conversation to get you to disagree so they can get on their soapbox. Leave them out there hanging on their own and don’t take the bait.

Ask yourself if it hurts to listen to their view and acknowledge that you understand how they feel. As humans, we all long for acceptance and most family members (even if you don’t see them often) want acceptance and to be heard. This will satisfy the acceptance they are seeking, so just listen, shake your head and validate out loud their perspective. Will you change your view due to the information they are providing? Probably not! Will they change your position if you express your views? Probably not! 

Nothing is wrong with sharing information and facts but, unfortunately, we all tend to listen to information that corroborates our views. We are naturally resistant to hearing any differing information because no one wants to be wrong or seem misinformed. Humiliation is a dangerous thing and the risk of humiliation in front of family could create deep resentment lasting for years…over politics?

Have a focus this holiday on each family member for their accomplishments, happy memories along with great food and laughter. Start a tradition of going around the dining table, with each member vocalizing what they are thankful for this past year and their funniest experience. 

Politics is like looking at the number “9” or the number “6” – depending on which side you are viewing the number, both believing it to be true. 

Rock is a mental health counselor and the published author of “Run Your Own Race: Happiness after 50.” Send any questions related to mental health, relationships or life issues to her at BarbRockrocks@yahoo.com.

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