“How could you possibly think that? How could you vote for him? Can you believe what your candidate did?”
Whether you think Trump is destroying norms and trust in our system, or that Biden stole the election, the odds are good that someone at your Thanksgiving table this year will believe differently.
You have two choices — engage in a bitter fight that won’t make anyone happy, or turn a fight into a conversation that leaves all parties with greater understanding for each other.
It’s easy to be blunt after a bitter election. “You’re part of the problem” is the easy statement. But we recommend a different approach — one that uses deliberate questions to put you and your disagreeing relative in the driver’s seat of making political decisions.
This Decision Point Method was developed using psychological research to ask people how they come to decisions — as opposed to what they believe — to create greater understanding, respect, and perception of intelligence.
Instead of a fight over the politics of the day, studies we have conducted show that the Decision Point Method takes people outside of their personal biases and causes us to think through solutions and process, not from our own biases.
The best part is that you’ll leave Thanksgiving dinner with more care and love for each other — not less.
It starts with the way we bring up controversial topics. You might ask, “Did you see what they said on the news?” or “Can you believe what that politician did?” It’s tempting, but these are leading questions that invite impulsive responses and don’t sound like they’re being asked in good faith.
Instead, try these: “If someone told you there was evidence of election fraud, what would you do?” or “If someone told you an elected official was abusing their power, what would you do?” Questions like these allow your audience to abstract themselves just a bit from the topic and approach it with more thought.
Hear them out, and offer your own answer to the question.
Then discuss the actions you would take and the decision processes — not the emotions — that would inform your actions. The point isn’t to solve the problem at the dinner table, because none of us can do that. The point is to consider the realistic range of possible actions that our elected representatives will take, and which actions they’ll actually take.
It bears repeating that we can’t control most of the things that politicians do, and we can’t resolve the problems our country faces over Thanksgiving dinner. We can only control how we engage with news, politics, and those around us.
At best, we can convince people of our views, but if we can’t, is it really better to destroy our relationships with them? Will angrily cutting off our own family members over things neither of us have any influence over make us happier? Almost certainly not.
So the best option — really, the only option — is to come prepared to channel disagreements into productive conversations that build mutual understanding.
Maybe the 2020 election really is the “Most Important of Our Time.” Maybe not. But even if the worst possible scenario happens — whatever that is to you — having a family that’s turned against one another will only make it worse.
And no politician or political cause is worth more devotion than we would give to our loved ones.