8 Tips for handling tense conversations

8 tips tense conversations

Worried about seasonal togetherness and the uncomfortable conversations that may arise at the annual family reunion? Here are a few tips to help you make it through.

  1. Fact Check everything. E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G.: memes, news stories (also known as “news” stories), website articles, even YouTube videos. Check it on snopes.com first. Seriously. For example, remember the video of cell phones popping popcorn? Totally not true. Just a prank. But so believable as to prevent folks from fact checking. (Also, John Wayne did not make a deathbed profession of faith prompted by a child’s appeal. And PBS’s Barney is not based on a 1930’s serial killer either. Just sayin’.)
  2. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Want to be heard? Listen. Want to be spoken to with respect? Speak that way to others. Want to be understood? Seek first to understand. This is generally a good life rule. Just ask Jesus. It worked for him.
  3. Remember your medicine! Especially if it’s high blood pressure medication. Or an anti-anxiety pill. Go medicated or stay home. Seriously. Even if you are planning on going, faking an emergency, and excusing yourself early. Don’t take the chance. Take your pills! It’s better for all of us that way.
  4. Avoid saying what’s already been said way too many times. You know what I mean, right? It’s the thing everyone says to make their point. Whether you’re talking vaccines and masks or climate change and recycling, refrain from regurgitating the obvious. Saying it again will not make it more true. Got something new? Save it until after the family gathering. You’ll be glad you did.
  5. Repeat after me: I will not change anyone’s opinion. Not through social media. And not through rants. (You might need to repeat this frequently. I know I do . . . .)
  6. Find some common ground. No really, you can do it! Even on hot button topics. Like this:
    • Say you want the Affordable Care Act completely repealed, but your cousin has health insurance for the first time because of this legislation. You can both agree that health care is important. You can agree that medical bills can be overwhelming. See?
    • How about if you are pro-life and your aunt is pro-choice? Well, neither of you thinks that it is ideal for a baby to come into the world unwanted, do you? You also both know that unplanned pregnancy is scary and life-altering. You can also agree that the mother’s health matters. And I think you can probably agree that there are no little girls out there who are hoping that they will grow up and have an abortion. Right?
    • Are you against capital punishment even though your parents have lobbied for the death penalty? I bet none of you is pro-murder, and I bet that all of you would prefer that the crime was never committed. Additionally, I bet you both agree that murder should not be legal. Poof: common ground!*
  7. Remember you are probably irritating to the person who is irritating you. I know. I prefer to think that I’m never the annoying one. Not true though. My kids can attest to this fact and will do so gladly. The thing is, when you allow yourself to consider that maybe, just maybe, you are part of the problem, you can start to become part of the solution.
  8. If none of this works? Have yourself another piece of pie. Pie always helps.

What else might soothe the tension at the table? Tell us your tips in the comments.

*This TED talk by David R. Dow introduced this concept to me of finding commonality despite what appear to be insurmountable differences. It’s well worth the 18 minutes it takes to view it.

By Aileen MItchell Lawrimore

Aileen Mitchell Lawrimore is a mother x 3, wife x 35 (years not men), minister, speaker, writer, retreat leader, and lover of beagles and books. She has a lot to say.