One silver lining of the pandemic is that it has been a great excuse to avoid uncomfortable conversations. You may love your Uncle Ed but hate his comments regarding immigration or Black Lives Matter. Some would argue that we should not shy away from conversations around these topics. In fact, they have a good point. How can we learn and grow if we do not discuss our differences? My concern is that these topics are more about moral differences than political views. That is where discussions around social justice can become very unproductive very quickly. It can also put relationships at risk.
Differences in Values
Moral topics are heated by nature. They should be! Our morals reflect the deepest parts of us. They guide what we will fight for and, in extreme cases, will die for. We are willing to risk a lot for our morals. Take the Vietnam War for example. Some men risked dying in combat while others risked jail time for refusing to go.
If we think about discussions around social issues from that perspective, it becomes very clear why these interactions can be so painful and charged. We are not asking someone to change their view, we are asking them to examine and question some of their deepest parts. These are the parts that have guided their life and helped forge their identity.
Preserving Our Relationships
Furthermore, relationships are as complicated and multilayered as the people who share them. It can be hard to reconcile our feelings of dismay around the views of a loved one when they have held a very loving and supportive role in our lives. From their stance, it can feel like a betrayal to have their values questioned. Furthermore, you may simply not be the person they want to discuss this with. They may be more receptive to a colleague or friend offering a different opinion. At the heart of all of this is the revelation that what we once assumed were unshakeable bonds, are really very vulnerable connections. This, combined with the globality of our world in which we may not live near our relatives, threatens the very fabric of our family structure.
So, you can start to see why we need to heed caution in discussing thesis topics with certain family members. This certainly doesn’t mean we should not talk about these things. They are fundamentally important. It’s a question of context and timing. We are coming out of a profoundly devastating period. Over 500,000 Americans have died from Covid, over 3 million women have been forced out of the workforce, anxiety and depression rates have skyrocketed, and countless people are experiencing heightened food and housing insecurity. It may be best to re enter lightly. Your family may need to connect in joy, not heated discourse. This fortifies the structure for when you do have those hard conversations.
Tips for Getting Together With Family Members Who Think Differently Than You
- Connect over shared interests and memories.
- Inquire about their lives. People generally like to talk about themselves. Ask what they have been up to.
- Keep it lighthearted, joke around.
- Plan on shorter events. We are all adjusting to being social again. Think afternoon BBQ, not a full week in a beach house together.
- Understand that you are not their social justice teacher. These are important topics that need to be discussed but they may respond better to someone else.
How have social situations been going for you? Comment below!