Dear Aunt Sevvy,

Our Thanksgiving celebration was a disaster. We imagined a happy gathering around the table with everyone feeling gratitude, but my father hijacked it by lashing out with political topics and dumb conspiracy theories. Several of us tried to change the subject, but he wouldn’t be stopped. I saw other guests’ eye-rolling each other, and most became quiet and just focused on their food. I am so angry that I will never, ever invite him over again. Aunt Sevvy, what are we going to do about this constant political controversy, and those who have no common sense about what to say? 

Signed, Dinner with a Turkey

Dear Turkey Dinner,

I’d be very surprised if you’re the only one who had this problem, and I’m expecting our readers to share stories and solutions of their own. 

All of us are aware that a lack of civility and courtesy are a hallmark of today’s social interactions. Many families find themselves on opposite sides of an increasingly widening opinion gap—an uncomfortable place to be while sitting across the table with nothing but a tofurkey between you. 

Some people believe they are “telling it like it is” or “not afraid to speak the truth” but those are often code phrases for angry tactlessness and a lack of common sense. Some, Aunt Sevvy thinks, may realize the differences in opinion have caused a breach, and believe they’re actually addressing the breach in relationship by bringing it up—unfortunately, at inopportune times like Thanksgiving dinner.

A good response to memorize for such situations might be something like this: “I would be happy to share my point of view with you if you would like, but right now I would rather spend some quality time with you, and the rest of the family. Could we not talk about these things now, and instead address what we have in common?” By sidestepping the political attack, and instead addressing the underlying fear that there has been an uncrossable chasm in your relationship, you might be able to save your next family meal together. 

If this approach doesn’t work, your father deserves a discussion with you before you cut him off from family gatherings. Wait until you aren’t as steaming mad as you are now, and then try to have a reasonable conversation with him about how difficult his political rants made your Thanksgiving meal. Tell him that you love him, and you want to include him but you cannot tolerate the discomfort he created in this gathering. Is he willing to change his behavior?

Christmas is coming, and once again families with opposing political views will be gathering around the same table. We could all use an extra dose of tact, compassion, and love as we navigate these stormy political waters. 

If all else fails, try feeding him so much pie that he can’t open his mouth. 

Aunt Sevvy

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