Some don’t talk about politics with their families to avoid potential arguments and upsetting situations. However, psychologist Vaile Wright says you should speak up about your views with family members who disagree with you.
In an interview with Vox, she said, “If you stay on the surface with your relationships to keep the peace and choose not to have these tough conversations with people, what are you losing out on in the long run?”
Communication is important for families, particularly during this time when we are being urged to stick in our homes due to coronavirus. Studies have shown that when parents have inviting and open discussions about opinions and current events with their kids, those kids are more likely to have an interest in politics.
“Being raised in a more pluralistic environment, where ideas and discussion are encouraged, is associated with political interest, knowledge, discussion, and activity,” writes Lindsay H. Hoffman, a professor of Communication and Political Science at the University of Delaware.
Why do we have such a hard time talking politics with family members who have opposing viewpoints? Well, according to Emily Laber-Warren, Conservatives and liberals tend to have two totally different personalities. Conservatives are more anxious and “are more attuned than liberals to assessing potential threats.” This also makes them want definite answers to complex questions. The study Laber-Warrer writes about also showed conservatives being “orderly and self-disciplined,” while liberals were more “open and novelty-seeking.”
When discussing how both liberals and conservatives can communicate more clearly, Laber-Warren wrote, “Instead of trying to change people’s emotional state (an effect that is temporary), astute policymakers might be able to phrase their ideas in a way that appeals to different worldviews.” By rephrasing to appeal to opposing parties’ personality traits, politicians can clearly get their points across without triggering anxiety.
When talking about politics, there are ways to avoid uncomfortable or upsetting situations. Louise Phipps Senft, a mediator at Baltimore Mediation, says to avoid arguing in the comment section, instead take a step back and ask the person to meet face-to-face or discuss it over the phone or facetime.
“Do not try to stand up to others who differ in beliefs. Instead, try to sit down with them,” writes Senft.
We asked 15 registered voters if their relatives have differing political opinions from them, seven of them said they did. When asked if their family influenced their views, one person, Miranda Torres, told us that they look to their parents for guidance and knowledge that came from her parents’ years of experience. “Their gratefulness influences how I look at politics and helps me understand just why certain things are run the way they are.”
When asked if heritage or culture influenced their political views, most participants said it did. “Being Hispanic, thus a ‘minority’, I would want to vote for someone that pushes equality,” said someone who wished to remain anonymous.
“The increased hostility towards Hispanics on the internet and in public spaces has also colored my view of the Republican party in a negative way,” said Carlos Sosa.
Some of the respondents stated that they try to avoid discussing politics when being with their families. Kevin Sanchez said he avoids talking about politics because “some people do not understand that their view isn’t the only one.” Robert Crohan said he avoided it “because [his] grandmother is more conservative.”
Others don’t avoid it. Some saying their opinions are their own and that they should be entitled to them.
“I’m not afraid to talk about something as important as politics to anyone,” said another anonymous source.
Sosa says when he talks about differing political views with his family members, his conversations usually start with understanding, but “quickly devolves into a dismissive conversation or even argument when corrections or differences of opinion come up.”
Disagreeing with your family members’ political opinions makes it challenging to talk with them about current and political trends going on in the world. Despite the frustration it may cause, communicating and sharing your opinion allows you to express yourself and learn more about other’s views.
(Editor’s note: This story is part of a series describing the transformational effect of coronavirus on the young. For more stories, click here.)