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  • Wed, 28, Nov, 2018 - 9:23:AM

How to talk to your conservative relatives this Christmas

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, unless you have a bigoted uncle.

— Or aunt, grandpa, cousin, family friend, all of the above (if you know, you know).

What's supposed to be an enjoyable family day of eating, drinking and being merry can quickly turn into World War III when your let’s say conservative uncle breaks into a rant about how motherhood and politics don’t mix, petrol prices, immigration, capital gains taxes, or whatever it is he chooses to bring up after a few drinks. 

Here are some (tried and tested) methods for dealing with your conservative relatives this Christmas season.

Pick your battles

This is key. You can’t win ‘em all — not that this is about winning, but there are certain things you’re going to have to let slide if you want to make it through Christmas lunch alive. And you do, because pavlova.

Know your stuff

Brush up on your statistics before you go in with guns blazing. It’s hard to argue with facts. If your uncle won’t let up, suggest some articles to read or podcasts to listen to while he digests his lunch. But don’t act like a know-it-all. Say something like, “I’d be really interested to see what you think of [this article]. Give it a read and then let’s talk about this.”

Listen and ask open-ended questions

However hard it may be, listen to what he has to say and try not to interrupt. Then take your turn. Ask thoughtful, open-ended questions. Is he strongly opposing the legalisation of cannabis? Instead of immediately disagreeing, ask why. What does he think we should be doing to help people who live with chronic pain? How does he feel about decriminalising it instead? 

Find common ground

Search (desperately, if need be) for something you agree on. If your uncle is complaining about the Labour-led government, for example, ask him one thing he thinks the current government is doing well. Similarly, mention a couple of things you think they could improve on. You’ll be surprised how a little agreement can go a long way.

Create distractions

If things start to get heated, bring out the big guns — family games! Lighten the mood with a round of Scattergories, a hit of BYC, or a good old-fashioned game of Monopoly. (Just kidding. It's probably best not to mention the housing market and/or KiwiBuild).

Find an ally

Be it a sister, brother, your cool liberal mum, or a friend on the end of the phone — find someone to vent your frustrations with, and learn to laugh about the situation. Families are supposed to drive you crazy. As far as you can without screaming the house down, let it be. You’re not going to change your uncle’s worldview in one day. Pour yourself another glass of bubbles and set about teaching your little nephew some feminist ideologies instead.

Make it personal

Try to give examples of how the things your uncle is saying might affect you or other people in your family. 

Stand up for what you believe in

Pick your battles to a certain extent, but don’t let it go too far. Stand up for what you believe in, and don’t tolerate blatant bigotry. If your uncle is being racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic — call him out on it. With any luck, other members of your family will have your back.

If necessary, put a stop to it

If it gets too much, kill it. But there’s no need to cause a scene. Something along the lines of, “Look, Uncle [Steve], this conversation is actually really upsetting me, and I’d rather we just leave it and enjoy our lunch instead,” should do it.


Good luck and Merry family break-up season!


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