Dear Dr. Faizal,
Celebrating the holidays is very important to my family. I enjoy the meaning of this time of year but do not appreciate the many arguments during the New Year’s Eve dinner. We usually have many relatives over and everything is festive until my father raises the topic of politics, then the rest of the evening is a war of words and people (me included) trying to prove that their views are the only correct ones. Why does this happen and what can I do to avoid being caught up in these types of discussions?
– The Great Battle of NYE Dinner
Dear The Great Battle of NYE Dinner,
The holiday season is a wonderful time to spend with family and friends. With our loved ones, we enjoy drinking our favourite beverages, munching on freshly-baked goodies, and sharing old stories, while being serenaded by holiday songs playing in the background. Sometimes, however, certain conversations at dinner can deflate the festive mood.
There are some people, like a few of your family members, who take politics personally. Such individuals allow political issues to form their identity, and in this manner, their political perspectives define who they are. With such people, if their party wins an election, this victory boosts their ego. However, if their party is unsuccessful, this loss affects these people’s sense of self, resulting in them doubting, and sometimes, having to re-evaluate their values.
Some parents use the holidays to assert their authority in their family and to lecture their children: “You should go to university…. You should marry a wealthy man…. You should vote for the party I believe in.” Out of loyalty and respect, many children feel obligated to obey or conform to their parents’ expectations.
On the other hand, I’ve also heard of children using particular leaders to resolve deeper family issues. I once counselled a man who was experiencing challenges with his father. When his father wanted to know why my client chose to vote for a particular political leader, my client stated that he believed that this leader was a caring father. While acknowledging that being a caring father is not a prerequisite to being a good leader, my client was conveying the message that he needs his father to be more caring towards him.
If topics related to politics come up, tread lightly. In your discussions, be respectful of others. Give your opinions and assert your belief, but also listen to others and try to appreciate their views. Do not debate. Debating is trying to win over the other person, trying to prove that you are better than your opponent. It is a situation that only leads to further debates and ultimately leads to hurt feelings. Instead, agree to disagree.
If the discussions become overwhelming, I recommend that people politely excuse themselves from the dinner table for a few minutes, take a deep breath (or two), and appreciate that their relationship with their family is probably more important than which stranger is elected.
I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all my loyal readers a very nurturing 2019.