Keeping post-election peace at holiday gatherings

Keeping the post-election peace when families gather for the holidays may be challenging this year, said Samuel T. Gladding, professor of counseling at Wake Forest University and an expert on family counseling.

Gladding offers suggestions for how to prevent political conflict from becoming the main course at family gatherings.

  • Set ground rules from the beginning. Frame this as a special time to enjoy each other’s company, not fight about politics. If family members have different political views, acknowledging concerns in advance can be helpful.
  • Consider designating a no politics zone. That might be the dining room table or the whole gathering.
  • Appoint a referee.  Find the level-headed, neutral person in the group who is prepared to call a time out or throw a flag on the play if someone tries to steer conversation toward conflict.
  • Be prepared with diversionary topics:  Talk about work, children, hobbies, families, and future plans.
  • If politics comes up, leave the topic on the table. Don’t pick it up because responding can quickly escalate into conflict. In other words, don’t take the bait.
  • Be reasonable and use comments such as “I know we have disagreements, let’s talk about things we can all be thankful for.”
  • Focus on humor and laughing together.
  • Focus on the food.

“The last thing you want on Thanksgiving when family is gathered is to create bad memories of people shouting at each other or getting their feelings hurt,” Gladding said.

You can read more about Gladding’s bio here.  The author of several books on counseling, he can also address related topics.

Categories: Faculty