The Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program at Harvard Law School has released the first episode of their new podcast, Thanks for Listening. Episode One is about politics around the Thanksgiving table and bridging the divide at family gatherings. Wherever you are in the world, navigating political conversations with family members can prove challenging, and an increasingly divided political climate can exacerbate these tensions further. However, there are some useful ways to help to manage these complex situations and to help people better understand the dynamic involved.
How can we navigate a family gathering in a polarised political climate?
Understanding the psychology behind such conflicts is key. When a neighbour or coworker has differing views, we tend to assume that is because they are fundamentally different from us. When it comes to our own families, however, our family identity is a “we”. Differing views within the family can be seen as a threat to that “we” identity and, even more so, a threat to our own sense of self. Hence, any political separation in “we” becomes slightly more reactive and threatening to us. Many families prefer avoidance of political topics altogether which can lead to an elephant in the room, further widening this divide.
Episode One highlights a few tips on engaging with families. For starters, we must change our frame of mind and accept differing political views in the family as just that – differing political views – without them being a threat to our personal identity. When it comes to questioning these differing political views, ask with respect and with genuine curiosity. While it is certainly not our job or responsibility to change the mind of others (and we likely cannot change them either way), we can still ask, listen and try to understand their reasoning. Above all, we are still able to bring our own perspective to the conversation and, if possible, perhaps even find common ground.
Check out Episode One below!
The podcast more generally will aim to focus on bridging the American political divide through dialogue and collaborative processes. As one of the hosts, Neil McGaraghan, explains, “If you are anything like us, you’ve grown more and more alarmed at the deepening divide in this country. And with the midterm elections just behind us, the evidence of partisan bitterness is as vivid as ever. Stories of polarization in America have become, unfortunately, all too familiar.”
Click here for more information about the podcast, including the full transcript from Episode One.
Photo by Gavin Whitner for Music Oomph.