- Current political tensions could make some conversations harder than usual at your next holiday gathering.
- Feeling angry or anxious about a dialogue can affect you both mentally and physically.
- Whether you’re a guest or hosting an event, having a plan in place can help you and others avoid potential friction and keep holiday spirits high.
While the idea of all things jolly during the holidays is comforting, the reality of getting together with friends and family can sometimes include figuring out how to navigate less-joyful topics of conversation.
With the current divisive political climate, this season may be particularly packed with tense talk at your next gathering — potentially putting a damper on your holiday celebration.
“The problem, especially when we talk about politics, is that people take it so personally. They make part of their identity the political ideology or the person. So if you so strongly identify with the president of the United States, and someone says something bad about him, then you feel like you’re being attacked personally,” Patrick Wanis, PhD, a human behavior expert, told Healthline.
“If you identify with a particular political ideology and someone attacks that, then you feel like you’re being attacked personally,” he added.
However, for some people, spirited talks are healthy if they involve a dialogue where both people are genuinely interested in understanding the other’s position rather than trying to get them to buy into theirs, said Karen Ruskin, PsyD, a relationship and human behavior expert in Gilbert, Arizona.
“If you’re trying to sell your perspective, then that creates disharmony and discomfort and friction and misunderstanding and not feeling like your voice is heard,” Dr. Ruskin told Healthline.
She explained that the political debate between family and friends is not just about politics.
“It becomes about feeling not understood and not heard and when we as humans don’t feel understood and heard, especially by the people we care about most… it hurts us. That’s why talking about something that can be such [a] difference of opinion can be harmful for the relationship,” Ruskin said.
However, the following tips may be able to help you navigate difficult conversations that crop up at your next holiday gathering:
Jacob Z. Goldsmith, PhD, licensed clinical psychologist at The Family Institute at Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois, said that while it takes practice, setting boundaries is the best way to navigate difficult conversations.
“People think of boundaries as inherently problematic, as if the healthiest relationships would be ones with no boundaries. Healthy relationships definitely involve boundary setting. If someone is unwilling to respect your boundaries, it’s a really good sign that that’s not a healthy relationship,” Dr. Goldsmith told Healthline.
He advised people think of setting boundaries in terms of communicating with and managing people.
“Ideally, we want to communicate with people. We want to say, ‘I love you and we need to stop talking about this right now’ or ‘I’m happy to have a conversation about this, not at the dinner table in front of everyone else. Let’s have a cup of coffee tomorrow and hash this out,’” Goldsmith said.
Telling those in the discussion that you’re overwhelmed and need to take a time out is another communication approach he recommended.
If communicating doesn’t work, going into management mode is needed, which involves leaving the table during a heated discussion or not attending a family gathering to avoid a person.
“I’ll acknowledge that in some families that’s necessary, if you have a really toxic family member. But the first choice is to openly communicate,” said Goldsmith.
Dr. Wanis said the biggest sign that boundaries have been crossed is when personal attacks are made.
“It’s fine if people debate passionately about something they believe in. The problem isn’t when it’s conflict, it’s the type of conflict and it’s when conflict becomes a personal attack,” he said.
Other signs that a conversation should end include:
- body shaking
- feeling anxious
- feeling angry
- feeling bitter
- an inability to express yourself
- loss of control
- violent thoughts
If setting boundaries is difficult around a person who intentionally pushes your buttons, Wanis said recognizing the reason why the person aims to argue with you can be helpful.
He explained the following are usually the main reasons why:
- It’s the only way they believe they can connect with you.
- They like to have power over you.
- They’re a bully.
- Convincing you to agree with them validates their beliefs.
Once you understand their motivation, Wanis said it can be easier to not react to their provocations.
“It’s learning to detach yourself from an outcome. If you want this person to approve or validate [you] then they have control over you,” he said.
“You hear the words and you don’t react because you don’t have to prove anything,” he continued. “The moment you believe you have to prove something or that you have to convince someone of something is when you’re going to get yourself in trouble.”
Wanis pointed out that another strategy is to ask questions.
“Say, ‘Why do you like President Trump so much?’ or ‘Why do you not like President Trump so much?’ And if you are just willing to listen, not only will you learn something, but you might learn something about the person and might get a greater insight into their core values, and you might realize they are probably not that different than you,” he said.
If you need to change the subject, he advised saying something along the lines of, “If President Trump bothers you so much, don’t think about him.” And then ask the person to tell you about what they’re most passionate about in life to change the subject.
When you’re the host, so much goes into making sure your guests feel comfortable and welcome. If you anticipate heated discussions at your party, here are a few ways to set the tone:
Be direct on your invite
Include a simple statement on the invitation, such as, “To ensure a fun time is had by all, please respect that there will be no political discussions.”
If you want to allow the discussion, Wanis says to set the ground rules and tell your guests upfront, “‘I’m happy for you all to be at my table, and to discuss and debate, but the moment there is a personal attack on someone, I will ask you to leave,’” he said.
Make it clear at the door
“If it’s a dynamic going on within the family or with friends, then there is humor and seriousness to this. Put a sign on your front door that says, ‘Leave the attitude at home,’” Ruskin said.
Talk to the instigator
If you know there’s someone who tends to be really provocative, talk to them ahead of time or pull that person aside when they arrive and tell them to leave the politics, religion, and other hot topics aside.
“It’s harder when there is a power dynamic, so if you’re a young adult and hosting and it’s your parent or grandparent or aunt or uncle, you may not feel comfortable pulling that person aside and saying, ‘Hey, you tend to antagonize people when you talk about politics,’ so then you need to tell someone else to [speak with them]. If it’s a grandparent, ask a parent to talk to them,” Goldsmith said.
If you want to avoid sitting around and talking all night, Ruskin said it’s a good idea to plan activities or games throughout the night.
“Pace the games, too. Maybe plan a game before the meal to set the tone, and after the meal to [break up dinner conversations],” she said.
If you’re the one bringing up a difficult topic, be prepared
If there’s a topic you want to discuss with family and friends over the holidays, Goldsmith said to prepare your thoughts and know when it’s time to stop talking.
“Before the holidays, think about what your [goal is], because if you want to have a difficult conversation you can’t just jump into it particularly after everyone has had two or three drinks in the middle of Christmas dinner. It’s going to feel like a gotcha moment and the alcohol doesn’t help,” he said.
Goldsmith suggests asking yourself how you want to feel at the end of the talk. Avoid going into the talk with the goal of convincing people to think or believe a certain way.
“When you think about it that way, you are able to take radical responsibility for your own behavior and own experience. Doing that allows you to insert a pause where you’re not just impulsively or reactively jumping in, but rather moving in a mindful and committed way,” he said.
Once you share your thoughts, be prepared to listen and be empathic of what other people are saying — even if you don’t agree.
“The hallmark of really deep conversation is empathic listening, which doesn’t mean you have to agree, but that you have to step into the other person’s shoes long enough to understand how and why they feel what they feel,” Goldsmith said.
When we experience tension, we experience tension emotionally and physiologically because they’re connected, Ruskin explained.
“We don’t compartmentalize our emotions and our brains from our body,” she said.
For instance, if you’re feeling angry or anxious about a dialogue, your body goes into fight-or-flight mode.
“Your heart rate will go up and if your heart starts to pound, the brain thinks, ‘Alert. Something is wrong,’ because the brain doesn’t know the distinct difference between why the heart rate [is increasing], it just thinks there’s a problem, and now the brain isn’t as calm as it was because you’re not getting as much oxygen to the brain [when] you’re feeling tense,” Ruskin said.
Goldsmith agreed, noting that research shows being under enormous amounts of stress has both physical and mental side effects.
However, he said, there’s a balance because being able to express yourself with loved ones has mental health benefits, too.
“Many people don’t feel mentally healthy when they are holding inside a lot of things. It’s important for a lot of people to feel close to their family and the holidays are a time for a lot of people to get their one shot at getting a break being away from work and relaxing for a little while, so to have that taken away if there is tension can feel really lousy,” he said.
“In the short term, it’s more stressful to talk about this stuff, but in the long term it can feel way better to develop relationships in which you can actually talk about these things,” Goldsmith said.
Cathy Cassata is a freelance writer who specializes in stories around health, mental health, and human behavior. She has a knack for writing with emotion and connecting with readers in an insightful and engaging way. Read more of her work here.
Doctor, NDP say politics guide Saskatchewan government’s COVID-19 response – Global News
Both spoke a day after Premier Scott Moe announced the province is transferring six COVID patients to Ontario to help ease the burden on the overcrowded ICUs.
Both said the province must to do more to protect residents from the disease.
Dr. Alex Wong, in Regina, stated he believes the government uses “some reasoning, that is political in nature, that keeps our elected officials, specifically our minister of health and our premier, from implementing clear public health… interventions.”
NDP health critic Vicki Mowat said the government is ignoring advice from the province’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab.
“We’re asking that, moving forward, all of Dr. Shahab’s recommendations be made publicly available,” she told reporters.
“Enough of the behind-the-scene politics,” Mowat said, saying health minister Paul Merriman should be as forthright as possible.
During a press conference with the Provincial Emergency Operations Centre (PEOC) leadership team on Monday, Dr. Shahab said he recommended strongly that people limit themselves to two or three households for private gatherings.
Shahab’s advice remains just that — a recommendation. Saskatchewan is the sole province or territory without any form of government restrictions or guidance on gathering size restrictions.
The province also had the highest death rate per capita in the past two weeks, with 5.7 deaths per 100,000 people, according to the federal government.
“There’s a reason why (gathering size restrictions have) literally been implemented every single place in the country, except us,” Wong said from his office in Regina, stating that even vaccinated people can transmit the virus.
The situation in the province’s ICUs, he said, was dire.
“We know informal triage is happening at the bedside, (doctors are) having to make hard decisions again about who gets access to resources and who does not.”
And things could still get worse.
The University of Saskatchewan’s Global Institute for Water Safety, which tracks COVID-19 virus load in the water for several cities, recorded a 109-per cent increase in Saskatoon from Oct. 7-13 over the prior week.
Toxicologist John Giesy, a member of the team and a former Canada research chair holder, said Thanksgiving celebrations helped spread the virus.
Giesy said the fact the virus load doubled doesn’t mean new cases will double, but told Global News the figure can offer a hint about what the city will soon experience.
“Hospitalizations lag a week to two weeks behind our numbers,” he said.
“So by the time people get sick, end up sick enough to be in the hospital and get diagnosed, (it) takes some time.”
“What we don’t know now,” he went on to say, “is what’s going to happen when the weather turns cold. That’s the next big unknown.”
Global News reached out to Moe’s and Merriman’s offices to ask what health measures Shahab had recommended since July 11 and which of them the government had enacted.
Global News also asked the premier and health minister if they would implement gathering size restrictions in light of the post-Thanksgiving doubling of the virus load.
The Saskatoon Public Safety Agency, which coordinates the PEOC, responded.
A statement said the PEOC, “is taking a strategic approach when it comes to resource requests, to ensure that requests meet the needs of the province at any given time.”
“There doesn’t appear to be any clear end in sight at this point,” Wong said, referring to the pandemic, saying he and other front-line workers will struggle in the next few weeks.
“If there’s no further action, then we’re just kind of going to see how it goes. We’re going to be on our own.”
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Opinion: Politics has become a thankless, dangerous job – The Globe and Mail
When Catherine McKenna announced she was leaving politics, she experienced an instant sense of relief.
It wasn’t the insane workload and hours – she was never afraid of hard work. Or the travel and the back-to-back meetings and the corrosive effect of snide partisanship. No, what she felt immediate respite from was fear – the fear that accompanies today’s politicians, especially ones with high-profile roles overseeing controversial files.
“I think the biggest thing was as a cabinet minister I constantly felt on edge,” the former environment minister told me in an interview. “It was the constant threats, people verbally accosting my staff and defacing my constituency office and sending me smashed up Barbie dolls.
“You realize people know where you live. You do think a lot about the safety of your children. It’s like this horrible cloud that follows you everywhere, and you have to try and pretend it’s not there but you can’t. You have to take threats seriously.”
Ms. McKenna is precisely the type of person we hope to attract to politics: smart, articulate, passionate about important issues, a fierce advocate for women and girls. Her absence leaves a hole. But who can blame her for wanting to leave given the constant harassment she faced? Why would anyone want to go into politics these days?
One never knows when deranged, malicious utterances on some social media platform might lead to something more serious. The recent killing of British MP David Amess, stabbed to death while meeting constituents in a church hall, is a tragic reminder of the increasing threat politicians all around the world face.
While the risk of violence has been something legislators have always had to live with, there is a sense it’s much worse now, amplified by social media and the ecosystem of the aggrieved.
“If you hate Catherine McKenna, Facebook will go find you other people who hate me too.”
It seems we have a few choices.
One option is finally getting serious with the social media platforms that are creating a dangerous work environment for politicians. Facebook and Twitter, among others, have said they will deal with the issue but have demonstrated little will to do so. This is no longer a freedom of speech issue. This is a public safety issue, and we shouldn’t fear trampling on certain rights in the name of a safer world.
The second option is massively increasing the security budgets for our elected officials. In Canada this would cost billions. Think about the home security systems that would be needed, the bodyguards. The fortress you would have to turn the House of Commons into. I doubt this would be very appealing to the public.
The third option is doing nothing and accepting that increasingly fewer of our best people are going to want to have anything to do with civic life because of the risk it poses to their personal safety and that of their families. I would argue this is already happening.
Every day it seems there is another report of a politician being screamed at or threatened in a public place. It happened to Conservative MP Michelle Rempel Garner when she and her husband were out for dinner during the election campaign. A man came up and started yelling at her. The same thing happened recently to Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart. He and his wife were at a downtown liquor store when a man in his 50s approached the mayor and started screaming at him, daring him to step outside and fight. He then started in on the mayor’s wife. Police were called, and the matter remains under investigation.
I thought about this when I interviewed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in downtown Vancouver in July. After the interview, he plunged into a waiting crowd to take selfies. How easy it would have been, I thought, for some lunatic to do serious harm to the PM. Scenes like that are likely soon coming to an end.
It needs to be said that not all politicians are blameless here. Some are responsible for the kind of incendiary language that stokes division and hatred. The Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol is a prime example of that. Some of the statements by People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier during the recent election were highly inflammatory.
We need to take this issue far more seriously than we do now. The future of our country literally depends on it.
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U.S. House committee backs contempt charge against Trump aide Bannon
A US Congressional Committee probing the deadly Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol voted unanimously on Tuesday in favor of contempt-of-Congress charges against Steve Bannon, a longtime aide to former President Donald Trump.
The seven Democratic and two Republican members of the House of Representatives Select Committee approved a report recommending the criminal charge by a 9-0 vote, calling it “shocking” that Bannon refused to comply with subpoenas seeking documents and testimony.
Approval of the report paved the way for the entire House to vote on whether to recommend contempt charges https://www.reuters.com/world/us/whats-stake-trump-allies-facing-contempt-congress-2021-10-14. That vote is set for Thursday, when the full, Democratic-controlled chamber is expected to approve the report.
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia said prosecutors there would “evaluate the matter based on the facts and the law” if the full House approves the recommendation.
“It’s a shame that Mr. Bannon has put us in this position. But we won’t take ‘no’ for an answer,” Representative Bennie Thompson, the panel’s chairman, said in his opening remarks.
Bannon’s attorney did not respond to a request for comment on Tuesday evening.
Before leaving office in January, Trump pardoned Bannon https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-pardons/trump-pardons-ex-aide-bannon-but-not-himself-or-family-idUSKBN29P0BE of charges he had swindled the Republican president’s supporters. Trump has urged former aides subpoenaed by the panel to reject its requests, claiming executive privilege.
Bannon, through his lawyer, has said he will not cooperate with the committee until Trump’s executive privilege claim is resolved by a court or through a settlement agreement.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Republican Representative Liz Cheney, the select committee’s vice chair, said: “Mr. Bannon’s and Mr. Trump’s privilege arguments do appear to reveal one thing, however: They suggest that President Trump was personally involved in the planning and execution of Jan. 6th. And we will get to the bottom of that.”
Thompson said Bannon “stands alone” among those subpoenaed in his refusal to cooperate.
More than 670 people have been charged with taking part in the riot, the worst attack on the U.S. government since the War of 1812. The select committee has issued 19 subpoenas.
“It’s shocking to me that anyone would not do everything in their power to assist our investigation,” Thompson said.
‘ALL HELL IS GOING TO BREAK LOOSE’
In its report, the committee argued that Bannon made statements suggesting he knew ahead of time about “extreme events” on Jan. 6, when Congress was scheduled to certify Democrat Joe Biden as the winner of the presidential election.
Bannon said on a Jan. 5 podcast that “all hell is going to break loose tomorrow.” The next day, thousands of Trump supporters descended on the Capitol.
Four people died on the day of the assault, and one Capitol police officer died the next day of injuries sustained in defense of the seat of Congress. Hundreds of police officers were injured and four have since taken their own lives.
Trump filed suit https://www.reuters.com/world/us/trump-sues-us-house-panel-investigating-jan-6-attack-court-document-2021-10-18 on Monday, alleging the committee made an illegal, unfounded and overly broad request for his White House records, which committee leaders rejected..
The U.S. Supreme Court said in 1821 that Congress has “inherent authority” to arrest and detain recalcitrant witnesses on its own, without the Justice Department’s help. But it has not used that authority in nearly a century.
In 1927, the high court said the Senate acted lawfully in sending its deputy sergeant at arms to Ohio to arrest and detain the brother of the then-attorney general, who had refused to testify about a bribery scheme known as the Teapot Dome scandal.
It was not immediately clear how the Justice Department would respond to a House recommendation – there have been few accusations of contempt of Congress – but some House members have argued that letting Bannon ignore subpoenas would weaken congressional oversight of the executive branch.
“No one in the United States of America has the right to blow off a subpoena by a court or by the U.S. Congress,” panel member Jamie Raskin, a Democrat, told reporters after the meeting.
The select committee was created by House Democrats against the wishes of most Republicans. Two of the committee’s nine members – Cheney and Representative Adam Kinzinger – are Republicans who joined House Democrats in voting to impeach Trump in January on a charge of inciting the Jan. 6 attack in a fiery speech to supporters earlier that day.
Multiple courts, state election officials and members of Trump’s own administration have rejected Trump’s claims that Biden won because of election fraud.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle in Washington; Additional reporting by Jan Wolfe and Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Peter Cooney)
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