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How To Keep The Political Peace At Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving dinner
Ian Westcott
Thanksgiving dinner

How To Keep The Political Peace At Thanksgiving Dinner
How To Keep The Political Peace At Thanksgiving Dinner GUEST: Jennifer Chappell Marsh, family therapist

If one of your reactions to the presidential election was how will I get through Thanksgiving dinner, you need help and you need a fast. People have wildly divergent political points of view. If you one of the brave souls getting ready to Fisher politically incorrect relatives at the dinner table, Jennifer Chappell marsh is here to tell you how to do it. I'm happy to be here. How stressful would you say this election has been for some of your clients quick Very stressful. I have clients coming into my office, especially after the election was over, very upset both individuals and couples. A lot of them have been Surprise about how emotional they been with the results of the election. So there are people because of that, because of the overwhelming emotional reactions some have had that are dreading this Thanksgiving because of the political tension they anticipate. If you are feeling that way, is a better if you just don't attend a big fabric that's family gathering measure quick When I'm working with my clients, I always explore the least intrusive option. Avoiding going to Thanksgiving dinner altogether would be the last option. There are a lot of things that people can try before they avoided altogether. Why would it be the last option? Even though it can be coming from a good place, not going could be because you want to avoid any high conflict. You don't want to say or do something that could create more of a disconnection. That's coming from a good place but unfortunately it can very easily gives the wrong message that you don't care at all. ________________________________________ So against the wrong impression to the other relatives who are attending. ________________________________________ What about the host? ________________________________________ If they put a ban on political conversation, is that a good idea quick ________________________________________ It can't be. Having a conversation can become argumentative so that would be a good place to set boundaries. ________________________________________ It would be hard to enforce. [Laughter] ________________________________________ When people are preparing to go to Thanksgiving dinner or a holiday dinner that they feel they are going to be confronted with some sort of political conflict, what do they need to do beforehand to prepare themselves and get themselves in the right place to go in and have a reasonably good time quick ________________________________________ There are very specific things that people can do before the end up passing the gravy. The first thing that I help my clients with is to understand why you're feeling so reactive in the first place. I've had a lot of clients who were very surprised by feeling as much as they do. It almost becomes larger than life in their heads. Being able to slow down and understand why am I feeling this way is it something about this candidate that's triggering something in my personal history and what is it that I most afraid of happening. Putting a name to it and understanding it can be calming. ________________________________________ So understanding yourself first. ________________________________________ And then you want to make a plan. We always feel safer if we have a plan in place especially if are going in a war zone. Having a plan in place with how you're going to respond if things start to feel uncomfortable whether that is taking a break, taking 10 minutes to walk outside, seeking support from another family member, taking deep breaths, having a neutral statement that you can respond with. Something along the lines of we disagree politically but I'm glad we live in a country where we can all freely express our views. There is also a concept of active listening without necessarily agreeing with someone's viewpoint. What does that mean to accept someone's viewpoint if you don't agree with it? ________________________________________ What that means is you're not trying to convince someone to feel the same way you too. You're communicating with someone and coming from a place of curiosity and understanding. A genuine sense of i want to understand why you feel the way that you too. A lot of that comes from her tone of voice, it comes from our body language and whimper coming from that place, were coming from a less reactive place ________________________________________ How can you tell what is time to stop, stop the conversation from where it's going and to do flood that stuff collected somewhere else. Do your own physical reactions tell you when it's time to move on to something else? ________________________________________ This is a good time to get connected with how you're feeling and how you're feeling in the moment and keep track of that. If you're starting to feel uncomfortable, your body will tell you first. You will start to notice your heart is starting to be faster, your palms get sweaty, you will notice those physical signs. When that happens, know that that is the part of your brain getting activated, your threat system has been alarmed. Chances are any interaction from that place is probably not going to go well. So that would be a time to use some strategies to calm yourself and take a break. ________________________________________ What if you're the host of the gathering and seeing the start. You're seeing the storm clouds gathering in a certain area. Is it your responsibility to diffuse that quick ________________________________________ As a host, it is your job to help in the ways that you can create a safe environment for everyone in your home and basically just intervening and perhaps saying there's something good to eat over there. ________________________________________ Absolutely. Stepping in, changing the subject, talking about the food and the kids and doing some sort of intervention that releases the pressure if you see a tense interaction happening. ________________________________________ Might be a good idea if you don't want to fight over politics to limit your drinking? ________________________________________ Yes [Laughter] If you are feeling reactive and emotionally charged, especially if you're looking to be connected, it would be a good time to limit alcohol. ________________________________________ What's the benefit to you personally of being on your best behavior and getting through the dinner without losing your cool? ________________________________________ It's about connection. That's what I think of when I think of Thanksgiving. I want to be with my family and enjoy my family. And when we're in a reactive space, were not able to relax and connects and enjoy each other. So the more that we can put ourselves in a grounded place, the more we can connect and have a fulfilling experience. ________________________________________ And maybe actually have a happy Thanksgiving. I've been speaking with Jennifer marsh. Thank you very much

The presidential election was a major source of stress for Americans in both political parties, and its fallout could make this year's Thanksgiving especially taxing.

Families across the country may already be bowing out of Thanksgiving visits or canceling dinner altogether, afraid of arguments with family members who have wildly divergent political views. Others are gearing up for a tense few days.


San Diego family therapist Jennifer Chappell Marsh says no amount of argument will convince someone to abandon their political beliefs in a single dinner, so setting out to win a fight will only lead to hurt feelings. Instead, she suggested setting out to genuinely understand why family and friends hold on to certain beliefs.

"Think about who you’re talking to," Marsh said. "When couples have fallen out of love, I advise them to reflect on when they have felt close, what used to bring them together. We’re not talking to a pundit on TV. It’s someone who baked cookies for you."

And pay attention to your own reactions, Marsh said. If your heartbeat starts to jump, your chest tightens up or you feel a pit in your stomach, that could be a good time to step away from the dinner table to avoid conflict, she said.

Marsh has more tips on how to avoid a Thanksgiving blowout on KPBS Midday Edition Tuesday.