5 tips to keep politics from ruining the holidays

5 tips to keep politics from ruining the holidays
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The holidays are here, and friends and family will soon be gathered around the table to break bread, celebrate the season and make special memories. Unfortunately, holiday gatherings can also be a source of stress as loved ones discuss volatile topics, including perhaps the most volatile topic of all — politics.

Here are my five tips for being a mannerly guest and table mate.

  1. Steer clear from being the “fire starter.”

You know it’s probably going to happen, but don’t let it be YOU who strikes the first match to start the bonfire. Etiquette, a.k.a. social intelligence, is about making others feel comfortable. Expressing your political views or asking others for theirs can open the door to conflict. Your host has gone through a great deal of trouble to make the environment warm and welcoming. Avoid dousing the table talk with your personal vitriol and unwelcome opinions.

  1. Remain civil. 

Not all political conversations need to turn ugly. But sadly, in today’s political environment, many do. Do your part to remain unemotional without appearing disconnected. It’s a simple matter of setting your boundaries and not allowing others to upset you or ruin the holiday mood. You may even choose to opt out of an uncomfortable conversation by saying, “I made a promise to myself to enjoy the day. I’m going to reserve the right to sit back and watch the show.” Spoken in a friendly but firm tone of voice makes a powerful statement, which is, “I’m not getting involved.” Your host will thank you for keeping the peace and may wish others did the same.

  1. Understand that some people like to debate.

Some of you might be saying, “This is ridiculous. Why should I bite my tongue when I have an opinion?” I will tell you why — because your host doesn’t enjoy watching his or her friends and family argue while the turkey gets cold and the cranberry sauce gets runny. It’s impolite and disrespectful to monopolize the conversation with your strong opinions, especially when they are ruining the mood of the celebration.

  1. Feel free to change the subject.

Come armed with your own list of conversation starters, which may include open ended questions about your table mate’s job, their kids, recent vacations, favorite plays or movies or future travel plans. When you ask questions about the other person, you appear to be a dazzling conversationalist.

  1. Do your homework

Whether you plan to throw your opinion into the ring or sit it out and watch the match from the sidelines, you should be well-informed. Do you research, watch the news, stay up on current events and vow to maintain a positive conversation if you change your mind and choose to join in. Intelligent people can have  interesting, intelligent and courteous conversations about a trending topic.  But, I maintain, your host would prefer you show excitement about the food, football and great company rather than watch her guests’ blood pressure skyrocket.  

Diane Gottsman is a national etiquette expert, author of Modern Etiquette for a Better Life, and founder of The Protocol School of Texas.