“Hi, tita! Yes, I got fatter. No, I don’t have a boyfriend yet. Hmm? Who am I voting for this upcoming elections? Uhhh..”
There are a lot of awkward things that family members ask you about during gatherings, including difficult questions about your love life, weight, or your general direction in life. While it may be easy to just resign to some of these conversations, there are others that are a little more difficult to navigate on your own. Politics, for one, is considered to be something that should never be discussed at the dinner table. Often too taboo for family, the topic of politics can raise tensions and can make the general atmosphere very uncomfortable.
What is it about talking politics with your family that makes it so difficult, when some find it easy to engage with strangers online regarding the same topic? Relatives are people we usually have to deal with more often than friends and acquaintances, so the possibility of a fallout from a disagreement can be hard to deal with. Imagine your lola asking you to return her pyrex while linking you to a fake news article on Facebook all because you disagreed with her stance on the TRAIN law. Plus, gossip travels fast, and your cousin’s neighbor’s sister-in-law probably knows about your political conversations now, too.
Despite how difficult, frustrating, or scary it is, we really need to take politics to the dinner table, especially during times like these. We can’t just turn away from difficult topics because they make us uneasy. In fact, that feeling of discomfort is probably a good indication of how significant these types of conversations are.
[READ: Keep it in the family]
When I was younger, I always thought that ultra-conservative mindsets would eventually die out, giving myself a flimsy excuse for being passive about social issues. I realized though, that young people everywhere still seem to hold alarming views. Wearing MAGA hats, victim blaming, and joining groups where they can “pick up” women by harassing and manipulating them are just among the awful things young people do today. It’s 2019, but it still feels like we’re stuck with the mentalities of the past, and that’s partially because we’re afraid of bringing tough conversations up in our homes.
As the foundation of society, our families should be a safe space for us to share our ideas and broaden our knowledge. Although this is sadly not true for everyone, we shouldn’t be afraid of talking to our relatives about these things. In a way, you can also use this as your training ground. Practice for political discussions outside the family by starting with them. Think of it like learning how to drive on manual before going on automatic.
So how does one actually bring up political views during family get-togethers? Before anything, listen to who you’re talking to. As a general rule, asking them a lot of questions about their thoughts and allowing them the room to air out their views will help them open up to the conversation more. You’ll be able to gain a lot from this, maybe a new perspective for you to understand or a lapse in their thinking that you can use to further your point. Be open as well; you don’t know everything and you never truly will. Who knows, the cousin who’s always spouting conspiracy theories may be on to something. According to the New York Times, reflecting or echoing their thoughts back to whoever you’re speaking to helps them know that you are aware of their thoughts and their reasonings. This is when you can start to engage.
You are not here to rant, and you aren’t here to make a scene. Your desire to make a change, even in the smallest of ways, should be your main focus.
Sadly, experts say that talking about politics in a calm manner is more effective than doing the opposite, so going sprak on tito might not be the best idea (unless of course, he says something extremely Yikes-worthy and morally wrong, then by all means, go beast.) Try and keep your tone as casual as possible if you can, and let the conversation flow naturally.
At the end of the day, keep your end goal in mind. Remember that you’re out here trying to persuade someone into looking at things from a different perspective or educating them on things they might be misinformed about, and not just to have the last word in. You are not here to rant (hopefully), and you aren’t here to make a scene. Your desire to make a change, even in the smallest of ways, should be your main focus.
On the flipside, know when to call it a day. It’s an awful thought, but there really are people out there who are too stubborn or who may not be willing to change their minds. At the moment of being confronted, your relatives could be feeling defensive and prideful. Sometimes, all you can do is leave your message in the air, and wait for them to eventually breathe in what you said when they’re ready.
If you’re ever doubting yourself or why you’re doing this in the first place, remember that the biggest revolutions start off from small conversations, and your impact on one person can lead to something great. So instead of diverting from politics all the time at family dinner, maybe try making it the focus. Who knows? Maybe you’ll spark something good.