The Daily Gamecock

Column: Have a productive conversation about politics at the Thanksgiving table

With the election now over, the topic of politics is bound to be on everyone’s minds. As Thanksgiving arrives, it’s essential to listen to your family members’ political opinions, even if you don’t necessarily agree. 

The most critical election of most of our lifetimes was just called. The 46th President of the United States, Joe Biden, is bound to spark some controversy among your family members. 

Sometimes you share your political beliefs with your parents, which helps guide these conversations. Sometimes you don’t — it can be challenging if your parents aren’t willing to consider another side. 

Tania Isreal, a professor in the department of counseling, clinical and school psychology at the University of California Santa Barbara, gave some tips in a New York Times article. She said one conversation isn’t going to change anything. You need to be patient with your family. You also need to engage in active listening, which is listening to understand instead of listening to respond. Ask the other person about their views, and say something like, ‘I don’t necessarily agree with you on this issue, but I would love to hear why you feel this way.’ 

Both parties should be practicing this. The most important thing when you are talking to your family or friends about their political opinion is understanding them and making sure they understand you as well. Your job is not to change their political agenda. 

At times it might be hard to have that talk with your parents. The South tends to be more right-leaning, but there is a generational gap when it comes to Generation Z and Generation X. Gen X in the South tends to lean more conservative, while Gen Z tends to associate more with the Democratic Party, which leads to a lot of teenagers having different political views than their parents. 

There was a huge generational gap between Gen Z and millennials and Gen X, baby boomers and the silent generation, especially looking at this year’s election. The Pew Research Center reported that only 22% of Gen Zers approved of how Trump handled his job as president, compared to 48% of boomers. 

Being aware of the generational gap in politics is important to help you understand your parents and grandparents. You might have older relatives that you’ve only interacted with on social media prior to Thanksgiving. There’s a lot of people that use social media sites to talk about politics. 

Talking about this stuff in person can get messy if you don’t know the right way to approach it. Learning about how other generations were raised and what they learned when they were younger can help you understand them better and maybe be able to educate them on what is relevant today. 

Both of my parents grew up in the North, and while I was born in the North, I grew up in the South. My parents both followed the same party. Once we moved to the South and our financial status got better, my father switched his political status. Especially with this election, it was sometimes hard to talk to him about my feelings about what is happening in the world, but we both took the time to understand each other and why we feel the way we feel. Thanksgiving will be the first time I talk to my parents in person since the election, and there will be times where it is hard to be respectful and listen to what they have to say about the outcome of the election. 

It’s important to talk about politics with your family because it does have a significant impact on people’s lives. Understanding other people’s views can help you form more educated opinions for yourself and spread accurate information when others ask you about your views.