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How to Handle Family and Politics Peacefully

Michele Meleen
Reviewed by Marriage and Family Therapist Gabrielle Applebury
family enjoying dinner together

Family and politics can be harmonious or a point of contention. Just under half of all Americans say they've stopped talking about politics with someone in 2020. However, about 60% of adults say their family is okay with talking about politics. If you belong to one of the families who are uncomfortable talking politics, there are ways to learn how to handle political conversations peacefully with family members in person and online.

Strategies for Peaceful In-Person Political Conversations With Family

In-person conversations about politics are ideal because a lot can be lost in online or text conversations. If you must talk politics with your family, try to do it in person. Family communication is important, but it's also good to know when a topic should be avoided to keep the peace.

Talk Politics One-on-One

Because these conversations can be challenging, it's also best to do them one-on-one or in a very small group. When you have too many people in on the conversation, things can get out of control.

  • One-on-one conversations are easier to leave, if needed.
  • In one-one-one talks, neither party will be influenced by the behavior and opinions of others.
  • If you know the conversation could get heated, ask someone you know is a good mediator to join.

Save Political Remarks for Informal Gatherings

Backyard barbecues, small family dinners, and similar events are reasonable occasions to talk politics with family members. Everyone is in a casual mood at these types of events, and if an argument breaks out, it won't ruin anyone's special moment. Ensure your family can enjoy the holidays and formal events like weddings or graduation parties by leaving political conversations at the door.

Know Your Audience

Before you bring up a political opinion with your family, know where they stand in politics and how they typically handle disagreements. It's also important to know what other people might hear or participate in the conversation.

  • If you know a family member has different political views than you and they like to yell and make a scene during disagreements, it's best to avoid the subject with them.
  • On the other hand, if you know your family member has different political views, but they are respectful of differences, you can broach the subject cautiously.
  • Consider family generational issues and whether grandparents, for example, have had experiences that might make these conversations charged or painful.

Ask if it's Okay to Have the Conversation

You can show your family members respect by asking if it's okay for you to bring up a political topic or opinion. By showing this respect from the start, your family members will feel more comfortable. If they agree, start the conversation. If they don't want to talk politics, respect their wishes and avoid the topic.

woman talking with family

Know When You're Approaching Your Breaking Point

Knowing and noticing your own internal cues for when you start to feel defensive or stressed out in a conversation is important. If you feel yourself starting to get frustrated or angry, take a break from the conversation. Excuse yourself to the bathroom and calm down before re-starting the conversation. If you're not someone who calms down quickly or easily, let your family member know that you need to end the conversation for now. Say something like "I'm sorry, I'm feeling a little stressed right now, and I don't want to say something I'll regret. Can we try this conversation again another time?"

End the Conversation on a Good Note

No matter how you or anyone else is feeling about the conversation, try not to walk away from it with anger or resentment. Try to end the conversation when everyone feels heard and is in a calm state if possible. If it has gotten heated, try saying something to end on a calm note like "I know we don't agree, but I love you and I appreciate you sharing your opinions."

Make a Family Policy if Needed

If you are dealing with difficult family members, or know political conversations are dangerous in your family, make a family policy to avoid them. This is one simple way to avoid political discussions with family.

  • Have a family conversation about why you think everyone should agree to keep their political opinions out of family gatherings.
  • Make sure no one is blamed or singled out.
  • Something as simple as, "we won't talk about anything political at the table" can be sufficient.

How to Keep the Peace With Family When Talking Politics Virtually

Social media posts, emails, and text messages are not the ideal way to talk about difficult topics with anyone. People read the text from their own perspectives, and in whatever their current mood is. They could read your messages in very different ways than you intended.

Think Before You Post

Your social media platforms are your places to share all aspects of your life. But, it's important to remember that your social media "friends" include everyone from family members to coworkers.

  • Before you post anything political, think about your purpose and how it might read to all your "friends."
  • If you have the option to save a draft before you publish or send it, use that tool for political comments.
  • Hit the save button, wait a day, then come back and decide if it's worth posting.

Think Before You Comment

You will inevitably see political messages on social media or maybe even text comments. Before you add a comment or reply, think about what you plan to say.

  • If you're just trying to argue your point, disprove their point, or you know you'll offend them, it's probably not worth sending.
  • The world is filled with instant gratification, but you don't have to comment the second you see something.
  • Give yourself a day to think about why you want to comment and how you could best say your piece.

Give Family Advanced Notice

If you know you'll be posting something on your social media about politics, and you know it might be controversial with your family, let them know it's coming. By telling your family that you'll be posting something like this, they can choose to avoid reading it if they want. They'll feel respected by your courtesy. If you know the family member would have difficulty avoiding the post on their own, you can block them from seeing it. Again, it's best to let them know you'll be blocking them and why, if possible.

Family and Politics Can Mix

If politics are an important part of your life, it is possible to talk about this topic with family peacefully. Whether your political views are the same or opposite, your family values are likely similar. Respectful political conversations with family can help you understand each other and broaden your own perspectives. But, if there are family members who can't be respectful with these conversations, it's okay to avoid the topic too.

How to Handle Family and Politics Peacefully