The U.S. electoral season is in full swing, even though the elections themselves aren’t happening until a November voting day that seems so far away. Still, that’s not stopping the politicians from running their mouths … or your family from running theirs. With the election still months off, what can you do when your home has turned into a campaign trail?
It’s not about imposing your opinion on everyone, or about shutting down free speech in your home. Instead, keeping the peace during campaign season is about insuring that politics don’t make you lose sight of what really matters – your family ties, quality time together, and the ability to live together in peace regardless of who wins at the ballot box.
Declare “Politics-Free” Times
There’s going to be plenty of campaign trash talking between now and November 2nd between all of the candidates, fueled by twenty-four-hour news coverage on the major networks. Add in the commentary in your favorite publications, radio shows, or web sites, and you’ll have enough political talk to fill your head from now until Doomsday. The last thing you need after listening to the talking heads all day is to face another political analyst on the other side of the dinner table, especially if disagreement is the order of the day.
Lay out the family times that are most important to you, and declare them as “politics-free” zones. Maybe the dinner hour is sacred, or Saturday during football, or all day Sunday. Seize the chance to give everyone a break by turning off the TV, turning down the radio, and banning political chatter from polite conversation. At first it may feel odd to ban a conversational topic, but as the political season intensifies, the space to reflect and relax without a political influence will be a welcome way to restore order and keep the peace at home.
Lay Down Debate Ground Rules
When you are really getting into political debates, it’s easy to find yourself behaving like a politician. Smearing your opponent, bringing up dirt or long-buried secrets, and heaping on the insults makes you a real political insider … but it’s not helping you out when you’re talking to your siblings, parents, spouse, or children.
On your own or with your family, lay down the ground rules for talking about politics. Is it okay to insult the other person to prove a point? Is it okay to use family secrets as leverage when debating Perry vs. Romney or Obama vs. Ron Paul? Why would you let politics lead you toward behaviors that would make you ashamed of yourself in any other situation? Taking the time to step back and lay out ground rules will help you avoid regretting the words coming out of your mouth this election season for the rest of your life. Politics matter, but family relationships ultimately matter more.
Practice Peaceful Disagreement
Peaceful disagreement isn’t a natural part of political conversations, but it is a technique that you can use to diffuse situations and avoid arguments. Basically, instead of trying to win every conversation or convert everyone around you to your mindset, opt to let time prove the winner. End conversations with a neutral, “Well, I guess we’ll see,” or “Why don’t we watch what happens?” instead of trying to settle things in any one moment.
It can be very challenging to give up a need to be right or the need to show others why they’re not seeing things correctly. Again, take the long view. What’s more important – being right right now or maintaining a healthy relationship? The conversation you have right now may not change the course of the elections, but it may change the course of your family interactions if you are not careful.
Block It Out
If temporary zones, ground rules, and peaceful disagreement tactics don’t work, it may be time to go to extremes and block politics from your life until you can control your emotions. Reading the political columns makes you angry? Stop. Listening to talk radio causes fights with your spouse? Cut them out. Screaming matches with your children over the nightly news? Shut it off.
Try this sentence on for size: “I value my life, my sanity, and my family more than ________.” Fill in the blank with the trigger item – Sean Hannity, Obama speeches, The New York Times – and check the truthfulness of the statement. Tune back in to your core values, and turn off parts of the political world that pull you away from those values.
Your vote and your thoughts do matter. Keeping up with the minute-by-minute actions of political players or arguing non-stop over political issues with your family is not as important as your life or your final voting decision. Regulate the political climate in your home, so that you can live a rich life of peace and harmony until the one day in November when your vote counts.
©2011 Off the Grid News