Tulsa professor weighs in on talking politics at the dinner table

TULSA, Okla. — With family and friends gathering for the holiday, every person brings their own views to the dinner table. Uncomfortable Thanksgiving conversation is nothing new, but is it worth your mental health?

FOX23 spoke with Dr. Meg Myers Morgan, an associate professor in the political science department at OU-Tulsa, about what you should plan for when you sit down at the table.

Have a plan

Myers Morgan said you don’t have to avoid political conversation at the Thanksgiving table, but it’s important to think ahead and have a plan going into the holiday.

“Some families are great and it can be some fun sparring and debate, and to others it can wreck the dynamic,” said Myers Morgan.

“I think a lot of people go into Thanksgiving a little bit charged thinking that conversation is coming, but they don’t do a lot to preplan for that potential conversation. I think it’s worth taking a beat before you go to Thanksgiving dinner and decide for yourself, are you willing to have those conversations, and if you’re willing, are you going to get upset and is it going to ruin your Thanksgiving?”

Myers Morgan suggests preparing phrases that act as a deterrent or exit strategy out of a potentially awkward conversation.

“If you’re not willing to have that conversation, it’s good to have a phrase for yourself like ‘I really don’t want to talk about politics today’ or if someone is saying something you do not agree with but you don’t want to engage, you can say ‘I don’t subscribe to that’ or ‘I don’t agree with that, but I’m excited to be here having this meal with you.’”

She said having these key phrases in your back pocket can prevent you from getting emotional or involved in conversation.

Weigh the stakes

Myers Morgan also said to look at the stakes. If the person you’re engaging with is someone you don’t usually see that often, you can have a debate and there might not be severe consequences. But if it’s someone you see often, it might not be worth it.

One of the most important factors in deciding if you want to engage in political talk is your mental health.

“I think mental health is a large consequence of talking about this and just your own well being,” said Myers Morgan. “[The holidays] can be an isolating time. They can be a stressful time, and you compound that with a conversation that is going to make you upset, so I think the consequences that people need to think about is what does it stake for me mentally to have to bear the burden of this conversation or be upset over the holidays.”

Don’t take it personally

If you do decide to navigate the conversation, Myers Morgan suggests not taking someone else’s political opinion so personally.

“We take it so personally when people do not agree with us and then believe it is our mission to make them think like us,” she said. “If we can remove ourselves from that idea, it’s very freeing.”

Myers Morgan advises for people to decide what they want out of the holiday before visiting family and friends, so you can decide if it’s worth talking about the tough topics.

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