So…yeah. Here in the US, we’re heading into the holiday season just now in the middle of another fraught election season. That means the words “politics and holidays” are floating around in many anxiety dreams for those dealing with questions of how to deal with the major political divides in the context of holiday gatherings. Well, if this is you or if you know someone with this dilemma, here’s the article for you.
The Options for Handling Gatherings with Religio-Political Stress
Some will decide to stay away (last year I made a guide for “counting the cost” that’s helpful with making such decisions). Others will set up rules to not talk about politics. Others will dive into it full force.
I’m just going to say that as someone who studies and teaches about stress, trauma, and conflict communication, I affirm all of these choices—different people will need different solutions.
The following guide will give some pointers for each of these groups. (Also note that I previously discussed the rhetoric of “Reason for the Season” and “War on Christmas” rhetoric, if you’re dreading that coming up this season!)
If you stay away:
- Remember: It’s not you that’s the problem, it’s the stress. And if it will add greatly to your and/or others’ stress to go to these gatherings, staying away’s a good choice.
- Take care of yourself.
- Do what you can do in other areas to work against the toxic crap and toward a healthier world for us all.
- Keep doing what you can do where you are with what you’ve got.
- Don’t beat yourself up over the decision to stay away more than is needed (which is none—grieve over the need, sure, and make the decision carefully, but self-compassion is key).
- Again, take care of yourself—and, as much as you can, others. But remember you don’t have to care for everyone or convince the unconvinceable. We’re all tired, and can only do so much.
If you go to the gatherings but with “no politics” boundaries:
- Remember: Everyone is stressed about this stuff these days. If you know the personalities and there are bullies likely to be at the party and you think you and others can handle them, this may be a good choice.
- Once again, take care of yourself. Get some extra sleep, if you can, to approach the gatherings with the best possible energy.
- Do what you can do in other areas—make sure to speak up about politics leading up to the parties so you can hold your peace there.
- Set those boundaries: Make sure it’s clear before the gathering with key people that there will be no political discussion allowed.
- Bring a likeminded guest if possible—or coordinate with others of like mind who will be at the gathering—to strategize about how to handle emergent situations, including if people go outside of the boundaries.
- Hold people to the boundaries you set ahead of time. If someone goes outside of them, stick to pre-determined strategies and backup plans.
- Go in having read the free “Assertive Spirituality Guide to Online Trolls.” (It helps with offline conflict and advocacy as well. Instructions at the end of this article as to how to get it.)
If you go to the gatherings ready to jump into religio-political matters:
- Remember: Everyone’s stressed these days, including you. Try to go in with that awareness and common ground, and with the goal to decrease stress for people in and out of the room, especially to help people hurt by bullying, abuse, marginalization, and oppression.
- Definitely get lots of sleep. You’ll need your rest going into this if you know things are going to pop up.
- Still do what you can in other areas before and after the gatherings, but maybe conserve some major energy for dealing with people at holiday gatherings, especially if you know there are bullies.
- Even more than in the “no politics” situation, use the buddy system. Bring and/or coordinate with likeminded individuals how to support each other during inevitable conversations that may arise.
- Go in having read and prepared to implement our free “Assertive Spirituality Guide to Online Trolls” for sure (as I’ve said, it helps with offline conflict as well).
- Be prepared to explain what you believe and why. Draw attention to the effects of policies on actual people as well as the impact of rudeness by those you’re discussing with on you and/or others. Remember it will decrease stress for everyone if you assertively hold people accountable for their behavior in a fiercely kind way.
I’m sure there are other scenarios I haven’t thought through, and there’s no way that’s a comprehensive list, but what do you expect of a free blog post, anyway? 😉
Okay, so if you’d noticed above, I strongly recommend that in at least two of the above three scenarios, I recommended you read our free “Assertive Spirituality Guide to Online Trolls.” To get it, either put your email address in the top bar of this page and hit submit or check the box when commenting on this page. Once you confirm your email address, we’ll send the link to the guide in the final welcome email. You can unsubscribe at any time, but we hope you’ll stick around.
A Final Charge
No matter what you decide for dealing with religio-political matters at your holiday gatherings, go team #AssertiveSpirituality!
Remember that any or all of these choices can be the best choice for you given the situation and what you can reasonably be expected to handle. As always, do as much as you can, where you are, with what you’ve got, to speak up against the toxic crap and work toward a healthier world for us all. That may happen at holiday gatherings or in other spheres.
Either way, do what you can and not what you can’t do. We can do this relay marathon together!