Tough Conversations: How to Love Your Aging Parents When Talk Turns to Politics
With the holidays right around the corner, many of us are looking forward to some extended time with our loved ones. But if you’re worried about having to talk politics with your aging parents, time together could bring some hesitancy, too. Here are some tips from Ebenezer to help you love your aging parents well if conversation turns to politics.
Seek First to Understand – Not to Be Understood
Talking to aging parents about politics can be messy and might sometimes lead to hurt feelings, but it’s not always possible – or beneficial – to avoid it. You may have several difficult conversations to navigate with your aging parents over the years to come, so consider taking this as a chance to practice communicating about sensitive issues.
As always, talking about touchy subjects requires an empathetic perspective, so try to understand the feelings involved. And, like in any relationship, keep in mind that approaching a conversation with the aim of changing another person’s mind likely won’t leave anyone satisfied. If conversation with your aging parents turns to politics, remember to appreciate and respect them as individuals. Ask questions to learn about their thought process and listen more than you talk. You may not always be on the same page, but you can still build deeper connections by listening well and hearing the heart behind their words.
Restate Their Opinion in the Strongest Possible Terms
There’s no easy manual for how to talk to family about politics, but most people would agree that responding to one opinion with a conflicting opinion doesn’t make for a constructive conversation. The good news is that we don’t have to converse that way! Not every talk needs to be a debate, and unless we’re politicians ourselves, winning people to our side isn’t the ultimate goal.
If your aging parents offer a political opinion that’s different from yours, try responding by highlighting the good intentions you see in their thinking. Restate their position in the strongest terms you can, giving them the benefit of the doubt. This basic rule of civil conversation can have a profound impact on relationships. If your loved ones feel understood and heard, you might have built a point of connection that can help you both relate moving forward.
Agree to Disagree
When we’re close to someone emotionally, disagreements can feel intensely personal – but political viewpoints aren’t the be-all and end-all of our existence. You may have to be okay with viewing the world differently from your aging parents and focusing on the values and memories you both share. When you offer opinions, do it respectfully, and respect your loved ones’ opinions as you would have them respect yours. A “win” in the conversation doesn’t have to mean that you were able to bring them over to your perspective. Instead, think about winning as achieving a better mutual understanding. There’s a lot we can learn from each other in this and any other area.