- 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.
Historic U.S. inauguration of Joe Biden, Kamala Harris
Almost nine months after it closed its doors permanently, Saint John’s Cherry Brook Zoo still has six inhabitants waiting to go to their new homes. All that remains of the once-bustling zoo are two lions, two tigers and two snakes. All six have found new homes, but the hold-up is with the four big cats, explains zookeeper Erin Brown, who has been overseeing the relocation of the zoo’s animals. Because they’re going to the United States, there’s a complicated permit process that often takes six to 12 months, explained Brown. Essentially, the zoo has to prove that the big cats were legally obtained, and that their transfer follows all of the guidelines laid out under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Brown said all of the permits required on the Canadian side of the border have been obtained. The hold-up is in the U.S. She said the COVID-19 pandemic and political unrest south of the border may also have contributed to the delay. “It could be making policies move a little more slowly,” she said. When the zoo announced it would close for good last May, there were 80 animals — from 35 different species — living at the zoo, and all had to find new homes, said executive director Martha McDevitt. She said staff spent a lot of time checking out prospective new homes to make sure the animals would be safe and well cared for. “It was a big task,” said McDevitt. The zoo had a number of farm-type animals, like miniature donkeys, goats and pigs that went to hobby farms, mostly in New Brunswick. The more exotic animals required a bit more work and they’re now spread out at facilities from Nova Scotia to Vancouver. “The big cats were the hardest to find homes for,” Brown said. The first step was to notify Canada’s Accredited Zoos and Aquariums, an accreditation and advocacy group better known as CAZA. But there weren’t any facilities in Canada willing or able to take the big cats. Brown said they eventually started reaching out to sanctuaries, although that wasn’t her first choice for the felines. That’s when they heard from Popcorn Park in New Jersey, which is part zoo, part sanctuary. The facility has agreed to take the lions and has lined up a new home for the tigers, since it already has a number of tigers. So, until the proper permits are ready to go, the four big cats will remain in Saint John. For McDevitt, they’re the hardest animals to say goodbye to. “You can’t help but create these special bonds with these animals, especially specific ones,” she said outside the tiger enclosure Tuesday morning. “For me personally, it’s the big cats, the tigers. When I was a little… child, I wanted to be a tiger when I grew up. “That’s impossible, I found out. So being able to work with them has been an absolute dream come true.” McDevitt has been with the zoo since 2016 and the lions arrived shortly after she did. The tigers have been at the Cherry Brook Zoo since the summer of 2017. All four were hand-raised at an Ontario zoo before it closed in 2016. “So seeing them leave — and especially them going across the border — is really hard because I may not ever see them again. So that’s been hard,” said McDevitt. And because they were hand-raised, Brown said the big cats actually like people. “They love interacting with visitors,” she said. It was a factor zoo staff considered when they looked at facilities willing to take them. “We had several facilities that offered space as a sanctuary situation, but we chose Popcorn Park because they’re going to be in a zoo situation. A lot of these sanctuaries are really more suited to cats that don’t like people.” She said cats that come from abusive or neglectful situations prefer to live a quiet life with as little human interaction as possible. “But our cats love human interaction. They love seeing visitors. So choosing Popcorn Park was on purpose so that they could have that interaction with visitors.” Once all the permits are in place, Popcorn Park will send its own relocation team to fetch the felines. They’ll have specialized equipment and people, including a veterinarian. They have specialized cages with wheels that will be rolled right up to the door of their enclosure, and with a little food inside the crate as an added incentive, they cats should go in and be ready to be loaded into a specialized trailer for the ride to New Jersey. In the meantime, thanks to monthly donors who continue to contribute to the zoo — and the occasional one-time donation — life goes on for the big cats. With fewer animals to tend to, staff members have a bit more time to hand-feed and train the cats. With her bucket of cut-up deer meat, zookeeper Megan Gorey puts the lions, Aslan and Frieda — littermates who were born in 2014 — through a series of behaviours that she doesn’t like to call tricks. The cats sit and lie down, and offer the correct paw on the fence as instructed. They also stand on their hind legs on command — all for a treat, of course. Gorey also demonstrates how she can draw blood and give injections with Luna, a five-year-old tiger who’s been at the zoo since 2017. From the safety of the other side of the fence, Gorey tells Luna to lie down along the fence and as someone else feeds her meat treats, she barely reacts when the needle is used. Long goodbye Brown said she initially worried that a long delay before some of the animals left would be a painful way to say goodbye, but she’s actually grateful for it now. She said each animal was able to get fussed over and given extra attention before they departed for their new homes. And with the four cats being among the last to go, it gave staff extra time with the zoo’s most popular inhabitants — who just happen to be the biggest eaters as well. McDevitt said it costs a couple hundred dollars per cat per month — and that’s even with the donations of roadkill from the Department of Natural Resources. One such donation just happened to arrive Tuesday morning and zookeepers were preparing to hoist entire deer legs up on poles in the cat enclosures to allow them to hunt and earn their meal. Once the big cats leave the Cherry Brook Zoo, the snakes will go as well, said Brown. The snakes will go home with one of the zookeepers, but as long as the zoo remains open for the lions and tigers, the snakes will stay as well.
Source: – Yahoo News Canada
Omdahl: Politics: When enough Is enough – INFORUM
North Dakota Republicans own the executive branch, the legislative branch and the judicial branch of state government, lock, stock and barrel. But having absolute power at the state level is not enough politics for some who now want to open up county, city, township, school board and other local offices to partisan elections by starting with an innocent marking on the ballot of party preference.
A strong two-party system is necessary for a democracy to function. There are policy issues streaming from voter ideologies that must be resolved. Local governments make secondary decisions, most of which are tightly controlled by state legislation. In reality, local governments are administrative units of the state government.
One advocate of partisan elections pointed to all the money local governments spend. He apparently wants to apply a more conservative financial system to local government. Apparently, he hasn’t been around enough to know that local finances involve mostly “sunk” costs or state regulations that permit local governments limited financial flexibility.
Other than creating political opportunities for the two parties, what are the benefits of a partisan system at the local level? A more conservative spending ideology?
Local governments in North Dakota are pretty clean. Our governments are small; almost everyone in the county knows what is going on in the courthouse, including the unofficial as well as the official. About the only transgressions committed in local government are long coffee breaks.
For sure, partisan elections will not make local governments more effective, more efficient or any more honest.
In fact, they will do just the opposite.
Local offices will be flooded with junior politicians who will see public office not as an opportunity to serve the public so much as a stepping stone to some higher partisan office.
Partisan ballots will generate new levels of conflict in local governments as parties fight for offices or as party loyalists fight each other to gain a rung in the political ladder. Everyone will spend more time campaigning and less time serving the public.
With politically-minded partisans running local government, how often will political considerations be uppermost when choices have to be made and priorities established? Will politics decide on highways? On arrests? On human services?
Partisan ballots will eliminate at least half of the county officials. Even if they are Republicans, the partisan atmosphere day-in and day-out does not fit their idea of public service. In some local governments, ambitious partisans will run against incumbents regardless of party.
Many local officials do not have competition because the public is satisfied with their service. Partisan elections will create competition where competition isn’t necessary and it will force any officeholders to raise new money for races they never had in nonpartisan offices. There will be new personal costs to serving the people. That will discourage present officeholders.
With the rancor permeating both parties at present, this is hardly the time to bring that sort of partisan disease into local governments that have been performing so well. When it comes to partisan politics, at some point we must say that enough is enough. Enough.
Omdahl is a former N.D. lieutenant governor and retired University of North Dakota political science teacher. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum’s editorial board nor Forum ownership.
Group forms to support women in politics in Grey-Bruce
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The organization hopes to see at least one woman elected to each of Grey-Bruce’s 17 municipal councils in 2022. During the last municipal elections in 2018, every municipality except South Bruce had at least one woman elected. But women still only make up 28 per cent of the municipal politicians in the two counties while accounting for more than 50 per cent of the total population.
Merton said there is definitely an opportunity for improvement.
“If our focus is to increase the number of women to better represent our population then we have some work to do,” she said. “In different municipalities there are different percentages.
“We have some work to do for sure, to move towards that gender parity, and then to sustain it.”
Merton said the goal of the group is to not just get women to run and get elected, but to keep them involved in politics.
“There is a need to continue to have forward momentum to have more women to run for council, be successful and then once you are there continue to do well and thrive,” she said.
“Ultimately our goal is for women who have been elected to a first term to consider a second and third term and then to consider running for a position more than a councillor, to run as deputy-mayor or mayor.”
Along with encouraging more women to get involved in municipal politics locally, electHER also plans to provide the support and guidance to candidates through training, networking and mentorship programs leading up to the next municipal election in the fall of 2022. The first training session is slated for mid-March.
Source:- Owen Sound Sun Times
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