The Atlantic proposes this 10-point plan for arguing politics at Thanksgiving:
1) Be open to the possibility that you’re wrong. Seriously.
2) Approach the conversation with the purpose of better understanding one another’s views, not proving to your relative that you are right and they are wrong.
3) Before you focus on any point of disagreement, ask questions of your interlocutor to figure out why they think the way they do about the subject at hand.
4) Emphasize points of agreement if there are any.
5) Give them room to agree with your arguments without having to concede that their arguments are stupid, or feeling as if they’ve lost the exchange and you’ve won.
6) Rather than harping on a particular flaw in their preferred policy, ask questions that force them to confront it. “I agree, killing all the sharks would make it safer for surfers. But what about the creatures that sharks eat? How would you make sure their populations don’t explode? Seriously, how would you handle that?”
7) Don’t bother trying to score debating points, especially when you both know that’s all they are.
8) Remember that they know stuff that you don’t, just as you know stuff that they don’t.
9) Remember that lots of intelligent, good-hearted people share their position, and lots of dense jerks share your position, because that’s true of almost every position.
10) Listen more than you talk.
Dismissing the platitudes like Nos. 1 and 10, this isn’t worthless drivel. It’s more or less well thought out and might keep the dining room table from getting flipped over at a home or two, should both debating parties follow it to a T.
But doesn’t the fact that a well-thought out 10-point plan must exist for talking politics at Thanksgiving underscore the real point? Don’t do it. Don’t talk about politics at Thanksgiving dinner, period. Enjoy your dinner, talk about family and friends, talk about careers and movies and music, and please, for the love of turkey, just don’t, don’t, please don’t talk about politics.
photo credit: Carly Lesser & Art Drauglis, Creative Commons/flickr