Thanksgiving: He/She voted the other way. How can I face them?

Thanksgiving Talk in 3 steps

Many of us at NPP have been thinking since the election about how divided our country is – and as for so many others, those divisions extend to our own friends and families, and in some cases to our Thanksgiving tables.

As a federal budget organization, our role is and will continue to be providing facts and analyses that help people understand our nation’s priorities. But numbers aren’t all we need to understand. Just as important are our values and priorities. And as we know now more than ever, sometimes these diverge wildly.

We’ve been thinking about how to talk about our priorities and how – or whether it’s even possible –to bridge those divides.

This past Friday, we held a community meeting to discuss the election results.  We were grateful to have the participation and facilitation by a longtime NPP  friend and former board member, Rev. Dr. Andrea Ayvazian, the Senior Pastor at the Haydenville Congregational Church in Haydenville, Massachusetts.

An audience member asked the question so many of us have been thinking about: how do I talk to my friends and family who voted the other way?

Assuming this is someone you care about, this may be very difficult.

Rev. Ayvazian’s suggestion was simple, in three steps:

  1. If divisive subjects come up, first, you acknowledge the other person’s perspective: “Many people agree with you.”
  2. Then, speak your truth: “I don’t agree. Here’s why—“.
  3. Then, you “bracket” the conversation and agree to disagree: “We aren’t likely to convince each other. Let’s talk for 5 minutes and then agree to end it there.” 

If we are going to bridge what divides us, it won’t happen in a single conversation, but we can start by acknowledging what pulls us apart without letting it end the conversation forever.  This takes fortitude but leaves the door open to a dialogue that can influence hearts and minds and may lead to shared understanding.

If you’re up for a more in-depth conversation, there is a series of questions designed to enhance mutual understanding from The New York Times’ Run-Up  podcast here.

Good luck out there.