There's the Thanksgiving we dream of.
Then there’s the part of us that dreads the family gathering at Thanksgiving.
Some of it is the clash of personalities. Uncle Joe and cousin Betty never get along. But these days the thing we dread the most, I think, is the political outburst or rant. Whether it’s the Trump devotee or the woker-than-thou progressive or some sort of food or climate crusader, hackles rise, and suddenly everyone is uncomfortable.
So what do you do when someone three beers into the dinner throws down the gauntlet?
Here’s something that works really well.
Just ask, in as reasonable and serious a manner as you can, “Cousin Larry, I’d love to hear what you were hoping to make happen from your saying that.”
This turns the conversation away from the content of what Cousin Larry said—probably something most of the folks hated having to deal with—and it prevents an escalation of retorts that never ever go anywhere.
Instead it focuses on whatever the hell Cousin Larry thought he was trying to accomplish. Usually it was that he just wanted to get it off his chest. Or to let you know what he was thinking. Fine! You can all let him know “We heard you! A conspiracy of assholes are selling this country down the river. That’s what you think. We get it. You’ve made your point. Done!!”
Perhaps he was trying to change minds and hearts. “I just wanted you nimrods to wake up to the fact that...”
And you all can be like “Cousin Larry, we love you like mad, but I think you know there aren’t gonna be any minds changed here today. You’re the only one here who wants to get into a political debate [or a cultural debate or a food debate], and we know you don’t want to talk to yourself. But we can all talk about the season those Tennessee Titans are having. How about those Titans!”
Or you could go here: “You know we may not agree about politics, but I think we all DO agree about...” and, well, just pick a topic. Adele!
The Cousin Larry’s of the world are just toddlers who will stop their tantrum if they’re distracted.
In general, keep up the focus on finding commonalities, and don’t get stuck in picking the scabs of differences, and you’ll be fine.