This is probably more common than I realize, but some of my family members have different political views from me. The fact that we disagree isn’t so much of an issue for me, but if at any point I share my beliefs and viewpoints, it feels like I’m instantly attacked. I try my best to bite my tongue and let it all roll off me—but I’m labeled as uneducated, sensitive, and my favorite, a snowflake. With my siblings, we’re more easily able to see eye-to-eye, but my parents and my aunts and uncles are pretty aggressive about challenging my views.
Many times, I don’t even have to say anything for them to bait me with a question, like “What do you think of x, y, or z?” I will admit that when I was in college, I would debate with them, thinking it would make a difference. I don’t do that anymore. It’s a stressful trigger for me to spend extended periods of time around them at this point, especially with all the huge political issues in the news over the past couple of years.
It probably doesn’t help that they watch the same news channel (which in my opinion) just pumps them full of the same rhetoric. How do I find relief from relatives that always want to argue about politics?
The first step toward accepting their views is to realize that it’s not a “you” problem. They’re only comfortable with confronting you because of a few factors: Your age, as well as the fact that you’re family. What this likely indicates is that as a younger family member (whose life experience and maturity may still be questioned), the boundaries that your parents, aunts, and uncles recognize with strangers aren’t visible when it comes to you. In other words, they’re using you as an outlet to project onto, pinning you down as a more accessible way to vent the frustrations that they feel toward faceless strangers.
This is hard to cope with, but it’s also not personal. In fact, they may feel frustrated that they can’t sway you toward shifting your own political views out of genuine concern for your life choices and decision-making skills. But as an adult, you deserve and have earned autonomy.
So if you’re wisely choosing not to engage with family members who want to argue and prod you with political topics, try these simple strategies to reduce your anxiety and stress:
- Take a break from seeing them regularly if it’s causing you serious emotional distress. Before taking space from relatives, it’s not a bad idea to clearly (and kindly) communicate why you’re taking a step back so that they have time to consider how their actions have impacted the relationship they share with you.
- Schedule family therapy to eliminate passive-aggressive communication, and to let long-held resentment and crossed boundaries start to heal. Sometimes, an impartial third party can make a big difference, serving as a mediator between relatives when tensions are high.
- Stay curious instead of defensive: If you ask your relatives why they believe what they believe, the conversation may shift from an attack to an open conversation. If you’re emotionally aware enough to realize you can’t share your perspective, you might be able to at least empathize with their differing viewpoints.
- Instead of arguing, offer your relatives some perspective about your political views when the opportunity arises: If politics come up consistently, pay attention to your body language and tone of voice during these conversations (especially if they tend to turn into debates). By paying close attention to your emotional response, you can pivot and provide an honest perspective about why you feel the way that you do, and emphasize that your different political views don’t come from a sense of superiority.
Few topics get people fired up the way that politics can. The decisions made by our state and federal powers shape our lives and have lasting effects. It’s only natural that we want to have a say in the society we live in, and it’s important to be a contributing member of society. But the way that we express our opinions is just as important, if not more.