On Handling Sensitive Topics at Family Gatherings

We can have a healthy, mature conversation without any sort of hostility

People say that there are two things that you should never talk about at family gatherings — politics and religion. And honestly, that can probably be said regarding any social gathering or conversation that you have with anyone in general. Even when it comes to writing, these topics can be especially sensitive because it can create such a significant divide between different groups of people. And more often than not, they may lead to heated arguments between complete strangers.

But, when it comes to people whom you are close with, family in particular, you definitely don’t want to rattle any cages or create any rivalries there (unless of course, you’re intentionally trying to do that).

Personally speaking, when it comes to my own family, I have a pretty close relationship with them across the board— this is referring to my immediate family members. When it comes to my extended family, I’d say that I’m pretty close with them as well. I attend all the necessary family functions, I see them for all the holidays, and I reach out to them if it’s been a while since we’ve seen each other.

For the most part, there are seldom heated arguments that I’m ever particularly involved in. And that’s because I tend to avoid certain sensitive topics in an effort to keep the peace. When it comes to the topic of politics, I personally know where I stand. At the same time, I also know where my family stands. And I can’t quite say that we exactly meet eye to eye on the topic of politics.

However, family is family. You can’t choose who your family is, but you can choose what you believe in. Although your family may have had an influence on your beliefs and world views growing up, you have the freedom to choose otherwise as an individual.

I’d be lying if I said that my family doesn’t still influence my life in certain areas, but at the end of the day, I do have my own opinions. And that’s something that I’ve been trying to make more known as I’m getting older.

Coming from an Asian background, respecting your elders was alway rule number one. That’s a principle that I was raised on and I highly doubt that will change with age. However, I can still respect my elders while also respectfully sharing my world views and opinions with them, despite the fact that they may be very different.

With the current state of politics and the focus being on who will lead our nation in the next four years, it’s no surprise that this is a rocky time to be bring up the topic of politics at family gatherings — but, if you think about it, this actually might be the most opportune time to talk about it because of how relevant it is right now.

My fiancé and I are more similar in terms of our world views and us knowing my relatives’ views, it’s sometimes a challenge to be in certain conversations at family gatherings. For the most part, we keep to ourselves and politely listen in when this topic comes around. But, as we’ve spent more time with my relatives, it gets harder and harder not t shed light on what we believe. To avoid any sort of heated argument, we are however careful in the positioning of our tone and what we say.

Recently, a conversation came up and we chimed in a bit just to test the waters. We asked to hear their side on exactly why they believe what they believe, we listened, and we respectfully shared our opinion. To our surprise, no argument was had and we were able to let out a sigh of relief. From there, I realized that the conversation didn’t need to be a black box that we were forbidden from opening. We can have a healthy, mature conversation without any sort of hostility — and I figured that this was a good place to start.

If we are more open about our opinions and world views without diminishing the views of others, then we might start to get to a better place of understanding with one another. We need to understand the root of why people believe what they believe (even if it’s not necessarily something that we agree with) and we need to be able to openly share our own opinions without the fear of rejection.

Of course, it’s not going to be an easy conversation with every single person. Some people are more difficult to deal with and more adamant about their beliefs than others. Some people have less of an open mind than others. And, at the end of the day, people will still believe what they want to believe. But, we should at least be able to have the conversation regardless of the consequences.

Writer & Digital Advertising Expert based in Queens, New York. Avid Runner & Plant Mom. I write about writing and life in general.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store